Image of a woman eating nutritious food (Image: iStock)

Food safety is an integral part of food security as well as public health. Photo from iStock.

Food security and safety

We work to protect and increase the efficiency of livestock and food production systems and to assure the safety, quality and sustainability of Australian foods.

  • 17 January 2011 | Updated 26 October 2012

Feeding the world

With a billion people going to bed hungry every night, it is estimated that over the next 40 years the world will need to produce as much food as we have consumed in the last 500 years.

We must increase the amount of available food by more than 50 per cent while dealing with major environmental challenges, such as climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and pressure on biodiversity, ecosystems, soil and water.

At the same time, we need to ensure that the food produced is safe for human consumption, counteracting the rising number and severity of food safety incidents.

"Food Security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2009

Food safety per se has become a major food security challenge as a result of population increase and movement, urbanisation in close proximity to increased animal production, globalisation of food supply chains, and climate change leading to altered microbial ecosystems.

Foodborne microbial hazards are a constant threat across the supply chain, from the farm through to the consumer. With consumers demanding fresher, minimally processed food, manufacturers face new challenges to develop and deliver safe and nutritious products.

Improving food security

Research to improve the productivity of livestock is vital to meeting the increasing demand for animal protein – particularly in developing nations where demand for meat and dairy products will rise significantly along with predicted growth in population and income.

A range of vegetables and fruit including pumpkin, rockmelon, avocado, capsicum, carrots, red and brown onions, pears and cabbage.Our research to increase the efficiency of breeding and production systems underpins Australia’s place as one of the world’s largest meat and livestock exporters.

We work to help our current and emerging livestock industries to adapt and thrive in a range of production environments, focusing particularly on tropical northern Australia.

We also have a strong research focus to protect Australia against infectious animal diseases, such as avian influenza and foot-and-mouth disease, which could kill or reduce the productivity of affected animals, posing a significant threat to our livestock industries.

Meeting Australia’s and the world’s food security challenges cannot be achieved by increased production efficiencies alone. It is also necessary to reduce waste and increase yield, efficiency and energy use along the food supply chain. We work to help solve these problems through our world-leading research on emerging and traditional food processing technologies.

For example, advanced separation technologies add value to food processing waste streams, and product and process modelling and simulation can reduce waste in food processing by predicting process outcomes. 

Improving food safety

We use leading-edge technologies to better understand the biology of, and characterise, existing and emerging foodborne pathogens, for instance E. coli O157 – and to provide new approaches to risk management.

Our researchers develop improved methods for detecting foodborne microbial hazards, enabling us to discover the source of outbreaks and respond quickly to potential threats by implementing appropriate management systems.

This research plays a critical role in supporting the food manufacturing industry and public health authorities to predict, identify and control foodborne microbial hazards across the entire supply chain.

We also develop improved food processing and hurdle technologies to inactivate pathogens and produce safer, longer-lasting foods with fewer preservatives. Using less energy and water, such improved technologies further boost the sustainability and competitiveness of Australia’s food producers.

Our research and outcomes

Some things are not welcome in Australia

An outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) in Australia would devastate our livestock industries, costing anywhere between A$7-16 billion. (07:36)

Stopping avian influenza invading chickens

Protecting poultry and humans from dangerous strains of avian-influenza (bird flu) may one day be possible through CSIRO research that aims to 'switch on' natural immunity processes and produce flu-resistant chickens. (7:05)

A new “Make It Safe” guide to food safety

CSIRO Food and Nutritional Sciences has released a book – Make It Safe: A Guide to Food Safety – which provides small-scale food manufacturers with a practical guide to controlling food safety hazards.

From farm to fork: safer food lasting longer

In this vodcast, we visit CSIRO's Food Processing Centre in Werribee to meet scientists who show us the very latest food processing technologies they work on that can make safe – and better tasting foods than ever before. (9:56)

Bovine genome decoded

Breakthrough research into the genetic blueprint of the domestic cow could lead to major improvements in Australia's farming industry.

High pressure to keep food fresher

CSIRO is working on ways of keeping food fresh and nutritious for longer, by subjecting it to enormous pressure.

Some of our research related to food security and food safety is conducted through CSIRO’s Sustainable Agriculture, Biosecurity and Food Futures Flagships.

Our partners

We collaborate with numerous partners in the food industry, health and regulatory authorities.

Our key funding partners include:

Find out more about Animal, Food and Health Sciences.