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This paper examines the process of determining food safety and its implications for the scientific community. Of the two main categories of food safety, microorganisms and chemicals, the paper focuses on the latter. The importance of chemical use in agriculture is discussed along with public perceptions of such practices. The rapid introduction of new chemicals has outpaced the scientific community’s ability to test for toxicity and interpret its results. Testing and interpretation is confounded by the natural presence of chemicals in food. Limitations of animal experiments are discussed along with problems of calculating and communication risk, the latter being subject to public fear and outrage. The scientific community’s efforts to inform the public have been frustrated by food safety groups that aim to influence public perceptions of risk. The paper argues that the scientific community has an obligation to educate the public and policy-makers of the importance of good science in food safety.


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