Poor Water Quality’s Impact in the Food Industry: Governor’s School Research

Poor water quality – whether used in the production of food or directly injected – has long been recognized to be a serious detriment to human health on a global scale. Specifically, poor water quality is a chief contributor to the occurrence of food-borne illnesses, which devastate millions of individuals each year. During my time at the Virginia Governor’s School for Agriculture, I conducted extensive research on the correlation between poor water quality and food-borne illnesses, identifying causes and future implications. One of the most critical findings from my research is that developing and low-income regions are the most impacted by water-driven food-borne illnesses, often due to the lack of access to adequate sanitation measures surrounding food. Furthermore, the frequency and severity of food-borne diseases are only expected to increase due to climate change, making contamination events and weather variability more common. These two concepts work hand-in-hand as climate change predominantly afflicts developing regions – thus making the issue of food-borne illnesses ever more pressing.

Food can become contaminated by water in many of the steps taken in food processing and production. For example, polluted water can be inadvertently added as a direct ingredient, used for irrigation, or used to wash fresh produce prior to consumption. In order to reduce events of contamination and consequential food-borne illnesses, concerted efforts must be taken to ensure widespread food safety. Such approaches include updating water quality regulations, increasing government support to farms and food production facilities, improving operational infrastructure, implementing water monitoring systems for contaminants, and reducing overall pollution.

For more information and references, visit this link to view our Governor’s School research paper. https://docs.google.com/document/d/1TzchN3tWQ97pAGffzq8zhey6o11wf4HFDEKzHZevzLA/edit?usp=sharing