Genomics study to unlock food safety insights

Signal of change / Genomics study to unlock food safety insights

By Futures Centre / 09 Feb 2015

IBM Research and Mars, Incorporated have established the Consortium for Sequencing the Food Supply Chain – a collaborative food safety platform that will leverage advances in genomics to further our understanding of what makes food safe. 


Launched on 29 January 2015, the Consortium aims to undertake “the largest ever metagenomics study” to unlock food safety insights across the supply chain.


The Consortium’s scientists will investigate the genetic fingerprints of living organisms such as bacteria, fungi or viruses and how they grow in different environments, including countertops, factories, and raw materials. This data will be used to further investigate how bacteria interact, which could result in completely new ways to view supply chain food safety management.



Photo: Shaynabright / Flickr

So what?

Protecting the global food supply is a monumental public health challenge. In the US alone, one in six people are affected by food-borne diseases each year, resulting in 128,000 hospitalizations, 3,000 deaths, and $9 billion in medical costs. Another $75 billion worth of contaminated food is recalled and discarded annually.

“Genome sequencing serves as a new kind of microscope – one that uses data to peer deeply into our natural environment to uncover insights that were previously unknowable,” said Jeff Welser, Vice President and Lab Director, IBM Research - Almaden. “By mining insights from genomic data, we’re seeking to understand how to identify, interpret and ultimately create healthy and protective microbial management systems within the food supply chain.” 




What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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