Contaminated Water Equals Contaminated Food: Implications of Water Toxicity on the Food Industry and World Food Supply

Contaminated Water Equals Contaminated Food: Implications of Water Toxicity on the Food Industry and World Food Supply

We would never drink our own dirty bath water, yet with the level of water toxicity and contamination in the world today, our food also becomes “soiled” with a myriad of contaminants. 

Chemical and organic contaminants are tarnishing our water at every turn, through ineffective waste disposal, heavy metal leaching from decaying household plumbing, cement plants and industrial waste from local industries, landfills, and the billions of tons of pesticides and insecticides being dumped on agricultural crops. In many countries, agriculture is the number one cause of water pollution

Our storm water, creeks, rivers, and canals eventually lead to the ocean, where food sources are contaminated once again. Our produce isn’t safe, our meat and dairy that feed on those crops are not safe, and neither is the seafood that is increasingly being contaminated by plastics, micro-plastics, and other waste products in the world’s oceans. Fish are now mistaking plastic residue as food. 

Ground and well water is also increasingly unsafe as these toxins seep into underground water supplies that were once pristine. 

Add to these, harmful microorganisms, bacteria, viruses, nitrates, organic chemicals from pharmaceuticals, petroleum and its byproducts including fracking chemicals, disinfectants, solvents, paint, and around 1000 additional chemical and organic waste products, and it is no wonder that the food industry is scratching its head at the reduced value and quality of food products. 

 When both our food and water are contaminated it impinges on every aspect of life, from our ability to provide sanitary water to bathe in and drink, to the water we provide to farmers to grow crops. The implications of water-borne illness caused by pathogens or toxins are immense. 

The United Nations has even admitted that water contamination is costly, and difficult to reverse, with almost 80 percent of the global wastewater left untreated.   Possible solutions to the water contamination problem have surfaced around the world, and while they address water pollution on a micro-level, helping small communities in some of the most polluted areas of the world to find clean water, large scale-solutions will need to be implemented to protect the food supply and human and animal health. 

 Novel approaches such as MIT’s device that pulls clean drinking water straight out of the air, or the surgical lens that removes toxins from water for surgery may address smaller water shortages, but there are more people than ever are relying on food producers and aid programs to get enough to eat already. Without clean water, food shortages and proper nutrition will only become a more serious problem, with hunger statistics burgeoning as a result. 

Widespread, over-arching water cleaning methods must be captured to alter the trajectory of our food and water shortages, and the food industry can play a big part in altering the course of human health. 

 We can achieve food security without further harming our water supply, but it will be a joint effort between food producers and government regulators for this change to transpire.

We take for granted the safety of drinking water sources as at present it is available. However, the evaluation of potability is doubtful. This session will discuss the methods to counter the problem of source water protection and the possible influence on the food industry.