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Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) Technology - For Healthy Food Trade

Hitul Awasthi
Hitul Awasthi

Nutritious food provides us with energy and nutrients to stay healthy and active. To do that, our food must not contain toxins and microorganisms that would harm us.

International trade can improve the availability of nutritious food and compensate for poor harvests or other disruptions in the supply chain. But, if the food quality is not maintained then it may lead to outbreak of food-borne diseases and affect lives of many people.

Worldwide, approximately 4,20,000 people die and around 600 million fall ill after consumption of contaminated food.

But, a new scientific technology like Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) can prevent such events by tracking genetic combinations of pathogens in the food. The DNA sequences are like fingerprints, that are unique to each organism and it’s strain.

Four ways in which WGS is helping to track down pathogens –

1. WGCS can single out with more precision which ingredient in a multi-ingredient food is responsible for an outbreak

WGS can detect more efficiently, which specific ingredient carried the pathogen

2. WGS can determine source of contamination

3. WGS can more definitively show the linkage between multi-national outbreaks

4. WGS can help determine which illness are part of an outbreak

With WGS, it is easier to tell what the pathogen is and the type of illness it can cause

FAO facilitates an informal network of developing countries to share information, knowledge and experience in using WGS for food safety management.

SDG 2, which is about ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture, can only be achieved when food is safe. Thus, it becomes essential for all the stakeholders to safeguard the quality of food in supply chain.

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