The UK is not self-sufficient in food production, and we are completely reliant on imported food to feed the nation. In this article in Microbiology Today, Niamh Murphy asks, how can we be sure that the food we import is safe for human consumption?
The food chain is global; ingredients used to produce a simple home cooked meal are often sourced worldwide, but this is not a new phenomenon in the UK. British store cupboards have benefited from imported food since the discovery of the new world and the introduction of potatoes into the diet in the 16th century. Extensive trade networks set up in the 17th and 18th centuries brought spices and tea from India and China, with further foods to follow. Global trade supports farmers and the worldwide economy. The global market allows alternative sources of food to be found to ensure a constant, year-round supply. Importing food has provided consumers in the UK with a cheap, plentiful and wide range of foods, although the negative effects on the environment due to transportation of foods over hundreds or thousands of miles (food miles) has raised concerns over the necessity of importing out-of season or exotic foods purely for choice.