Ana Allende

Circular Economy and Wastewater Water Reuse: Impacts on Food Safety and Public Health

Senior Researcher Ana Allende1

1CEBAS-CSIC, Murcia, España

The sustainability of food systems, particularly in Southern European countries like Spain, is under threat due to water scarcity. Food production consumes 70% of the world’s fresh water resources. In the context of water management, the circular economy emphasizes the reuse and recycling of water to reduce dependency on freshwater resources. This approach is particularly vital in regions experiencing water scarcity. Wastewater, once treated, can be reclaimed and reused for various purposes, including agricultural irrigation and industrial processes. The European Commission promotes the use of reclaimed water for agricultural irrigation and the reuse of processing water in the food industry, provided it does not compromise food safety. Current scientific evidence supports the efficacy of water reclamation treatments and management strategies to control microbiological quality. Wastewater can contain a variety of microbial contaminants, including pathogens, antimicrobial-resistant bacteria (ARB) and antimicrobial resistance genes (ARG). There is a significant concern regarding the spread of microbiological hazards from water to fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables, and herbs (FVH). One of the main concerns is the prolonged exposure to sublethal concentrations of antimicrobials in reclaimed water and biocides used in food production and processing. This presentation will address the available scientific evidence in this field as well as new research projects that will generate data to bridge this knowledge gap, such as the project WateResist, financed by EFSA, where seven partners from five European countries are working in relevant areas of interest.


Dr. Ana Allende from CEBAS-CSIC (Spanish National Research Council) in Spain is a Research Professor with focus on safety of fresh produce and water. She obtained her PhD in Food Science and Technology at the University of Cartagena (Spain). She holds several positions in (inter)-national institutions including vice-chair of the BIOHAZ panel at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), vice-director of the CEBAS-CSIC, and Member of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) Roster of Experts. She has published more than 240 research articles in peer-reviewed international journals in Web of Science, focused on the safety of fresh produce with more than 11,000 cites. Her current H index is 60. She has built up more than twenty years of scientific research but also management experience by executing, initiating and guiding more than 30 international and national research projects in the area of microbial safety of fresh produce. Promotor of 7 PhD students (past and present). Over the last years, she has focused on safety aspects of fruits and vegetables, and water. Her research topics deal with the study of preventive and intervention strategies implemented through good agricultural practices, and the optimization of processing operations including water disinfection.