Welcome to urban farming!

Cities are eager to support urban agriculture for a number of reasons:

  • to educate children on nutrition
  • to provide food to disadvantaged families
  • to lay the foundation for healthy lifestyles
  • to help new farmers break into the business

But, while growing food within city limits is exciting for urban dwellers, it also raises some unique food safety issues.

We studied the impact of environmental pollution on the quality of vegetables grown in the city of Ghent.

Unwashed lettuce was found to contain relatively high levels of heavy metal concentrations, with lead exceeding the quality standards in a wide range of samples. However, thoroughly washing - at least three times with clean water - allowed reduction of the concentrations to below the standard in most samples.

Growing food in cities means growing food in places inherently plagued by pollution. Food safety risks associated with urban agriculture can generally be remedied as long as urban farmers and gardeners are aware of the issues and use the information available.

Our results help citizens in adopting good practices and support governments to shape adequate policies on urban agriculture and environmental quality.


Prof. Gijs Du Laing