Food safety in 2050 - Andreja Rajkovic

Population growth and the inverted age pyramid, climate change, the spread of pathogens and their evolution and adaptation, linked to the distribution of wealth, migration and inequalities: we've predicted everything mathematically.

Andreja RajkovicWith variability and uncertainty of course, and yes, with inherent human confirmation bias. Fortunately, “playing devil's advocate” is a role that good scientists take very seriously.

To what do we owe this current state of affairs in food safety? Without a doubt, this is also linked to developments in applied microbiology and food sciences, but also in many other scientific fields.

In the past ten years there has been a technological advance that allowed us to make objective and informed choices without being guided by psychological influence or directed socially responsible behaviour.

There were Artificial Intelligence (AI) and big-data analytics, which allowed us to extract additional information and connections from a huge amount of existing and often old laboratory data. In addition, there is also the ubiquitous Internet of Things (IoT), a whole series of measuring devices and sensors that constantly detect, quantify, register and inform for us, causing the amount of new data to explode further.

This data is analyzed on the basis of AI and BI (Business Intelligence), which provides us with new and valuable insights, connections, and suggestions.

Labs on chips

Today, the core of food microbiology research has largely shifted to “robotized” microorganisms and labs on chips, all in virtual experiments, often greatly reducing novel in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro analyses.

Recent research money is mainly going towards new technology that finally makes it possible to save large amounts of (old) data from oblivion and to extract additional treasures of hidden information from it.

Smart refrigerators

I especially like to look at the tangible results of an interdisciplinary approach in our research. For example, the refrigerator that detects foods and best before dates helps me to personally track food waste and informs me about the chance of getting sick if I eat food that has been kept just a little too long.

Of course, that smart refrigerator sends anonymously data about my food consumption behavior to an online database. This is a new step to make the food chain work more efficiently and to minimize food losses.

Endless and unsustainable food production is not an option and with the latest technologies we now better protect the food supply and public health. Exactly according to the vision of our Faculty.