Climate change and BBQs team up — worse food poisoning for us

From longer and warmer summers to increased flooding, a new report shows how climate-driven shifts impact food toxins like Salmonella and Vibrio.
Sade Agard
What's the link between climate change, BBQs and food poisoning?
What's the link between climate change, BBQs and food poisoning?


A recent report published in Health Monitoring brings attention to a concerning consequence of climate change—foodborne illnesses are poised to become a more substantial threat, particularly in Germany. 

The study delves into the interplay between changing climate conditions and the rise of common foodborne infections and toxins, revealing an alarming trend that could extend globally.

Survival of the pathogens

The research is part of a special series conducted by scientists in Germany investigating the regional health impacts of climate change.

Focused on pathogens like Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Vibrio bacteria, along with parasites such as Cryptosporidium and Giardia, and toxins produced by marine life, the report sheds light on the looming dangers posed by climate-driven shifts.

The findings highlight an array of factors contributing to the heightened risks. For instance, "temperature, precipitation, humidity, and soil properties are important environmental factors that influence the spread and survival of zoonotic pathogens," the authors explained. 

"Changes in these environmental factors as a result of climate change, such as permanently elevated ambient temperatures, increasing precipitation, but also water scarcity, may contribute to the spread and survival of pathogens."

In particular, the longer and warmer summers anticipated due to climate change are expected to foster more frequent outbreaks of germs like Salmonella and Campylobacter.

Extreme flooding events, intensified by climate change, could facilitate the contamination of water systems and vegetation by parasites like Cryptosporidium and Giardia. 

Furthermore, the complex impact of climate change on oceans can trigger the proliferation of harmful algae blooms, introducing toxins into the food chain.

More BBQs, more outbreaks

The report also touches on seemingly minor impacts. Rising temperatures might encourage more outdoor barbecuing, increasing the risk of undercooked poultry consumption and subsequent foodborne diseases.

Though the report primarily focuses on Germany, its implications extend globally. Similar warnings have emerged from sources like the European Environment Agency and the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, underscoring the universal threat posed by climate-driven foodborne illnesses.

While the report conveys concerning projections, it also emphasizes the urgency of action. The authors stress the importance of implementing effective strategies on both individual and collective levels to mitigate the escalating risks. 

Improved kitchen hygiene, including thorough handwashing and preventing cross-contamination, is a pivotal step in reducing foodborne infection and intoxication risks.

As climate change continues to reshape our environment, its effects on food safety loom large. The report serves as a call to action, urging immediate measures to safeguard public health against the imminent surge in foodborne illnesses exacerbated by changing climate conditions.

The complete study was published in the journal Health Monitoring and can be found here.

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