In this section, you may find new materials that have been published on the topic of “Food safety: a critical part of the food system in Africa”, since the date of the event. We continually select major new publications and articles that add up to the policy points discussed in this briefing.
CAHFSA and IAEA to cooperate on food safety
The Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are set to work together in areas including food safety. The two parties signed an agreement in Vienna, Austria last month to cooperate in the use of nuclear science and technology for sustainable agricultural health and food safety in the Caribbean. It provides the framework for collaboration to address challenges faced by the member states of both organisations as well as small island developing states in improving the agricultural sector. The IAEA assists countries to ensure the safety and quality of food and agricultural commodities and help international trade. Chief executive officer of CAHFSA, L. Simeon Collins, and Cornel Feruta, chief coordinator for the director general office for coordination, representing Dazhu Yang, deputy director general at IAEA, signed the agreement. CAHFSA includes Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Suriname, Saint Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.
African stakeholders meet in Dar to chart improvement of food
African food experts, researchers and stakeholders will today meet in Dar es Salaam to discuss challenges and concerns related to food safety, food borne diseases and chart out strategies on the best ways to improve food safety, nutrition and security for millions of Africans. The international meeting which is part of the commemoration of the Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security 2018, is being organised under the theme: “Sustained Food Safety Action for Improved Nutrition and Health of Africans,” bringing together participants from various African countries and key international and national agencies, World Food Programme, UNICEF, World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, African Union Commission, NEPAD and Tanzania Food and Drugs Authority (TFDA). The main agenda of the meeting, expected to be graced officially by Dr John Jingu, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Women, include food safety concerns and their associated main outcome, food-borne diseases, according to an official statement issued by the organizing agency, TFDA. “Food-borne disease imposes large direct and economic burdens worldwide…Africans are not exception to this,” TFDA statement reads in part.
‘Prioritise food safety to reduce food borne diseases’
The Dean of the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Ghana, Prof. Matilda Steiner-Asiedu, has called for the prioritisation of food safety in the national food security discourse to help reduce food-borne diseases, which are on the increase. She said although food safety was one of the critical pillars of security, stakeholders often downplayed it and rather prioritise the availability of food, a development which, she noted, had resulted in the increase of food-borne illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and diarrhoea. Prof. Steiner-Asiedu made the call at a symposium to mark the 10th anniversary of the International Life Sciences Institute/University of Ghana Food Safety and Nutrition Training Centre in Accra yesterday. The symposium was held on the theme, “10 years of food safety education: creating food safety ambassadors for sub-Saharan Africa.” Prof. Steiner-Asiedu said the centre had been providing formal and informal education to stakeholders in the food value chain for the past 10 years. Food safety, she said, was as an umbrella term that encompassed many facets of handling, preparation and storage of food to prevent illness and injury to the consumer.
Food safety index launched to alleviate hunger in Africa
A food safety index launched in Dakar, Senegal recently, aims to address health problems linked to failure to plan for sufficient food. The African Food Safety Index (FSI) will help track food shortages and food made unsafe by bacteria, viruses, pesticide residues and natural toxins such as cyanide in cassava, and aflatoxin in staple foods like maize and groundnuts. Food insecurity has been linked to poor yields due to low investment in the latest technology and poor storage which affects the quality of food that makes it to dinner tables. The index thought to be a useful tool in tackling food shortages, is expected to lead to improved health in the region by fighting malnutrition. “Without access to safe food, consumers are denied access to adequate food, nutrition or health,” said Amare Ayalew, the programme manager at the Partnership for Aflatoxin Control in Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, 91 million people in Africa fall ill each year due to foodborne diseases. Of these 137,000 die, many of whom are children and other vulnerable groups. Unsafe food is a threat to food and nutrition security and an impediment to national development.
Making food safer in developing countries
Unsafe food poses a significant threat to human health and well-being and can hamper agricultural transformation, market integration, and economic development. Populations in low- and middle-income countries are often hardest hit by the effects of unsafe food, with countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Africa south of the Sahara accounting for 53 percent of all foodborne illnesses and 75 percent of related deaths. According to the World Health Organization, the illness, disability, and premature deaths resulting from unsafe foods led to productivity losses of about USD 95 billion in 2016 in low- and middle-income countries. Despite the prevalence of unsafe food and related problems, however, policymakers in these countries have generally paid little attention to and made little investment in the addressing the issue of food safety. In order to encourage further improvements in food safety, a new report from the World Bank provides examples of effective food safety management practices from around the world. The report also includes a strong call to action, emphasizing the need for the creation of cohesive and well-funded domestic food safety management systems and public-private partnerships (including public agencies, businesses, and consumers) in low- and middle-income countries.
Listeria bacteria remains present in food samples obtained from rural areas and the informal sector. This is despite the fact that listeriosis levels have declined in South African ready-to-eat meat, after the recent major outbreak in the country. This was the finding of an ongoing independent study by the University of Pretoria’s Food Safety research group as part of the Department of Science and Technology and National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence in Food Security. The bacterial pathogen Listeria monocytogenes has been found in food products other than what has been officially reported. The findings were presented at the 2nd International Conference for Food Safety and Security, held in Pretoria this week. The study covered a sampling period before, during and after the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa, which was responsible for the deaths of more than 200 people. The researchers collected 344 samples of polony between December 2016 and September 2018, covering 77 brands/different polony products sold by 20 food outlets in both the formal and informal sector in eight of South Africa’s nine provinces.
Food-borne disease prevalence in rural villages in the Eastern Cape, South Africa
Globally, one out of 10 people fall ill after consumption of contaminated food, with the highest burden occurring in Africa, followed by Southeast Asia, whereas in Europe, the lowest burden of food-borne diseases is reported. The prevalence of food-borne diseases varies vastly in different countries. In Africa, it is estimated that 92 million people fall ill from consuming contaminated foods, resulting in 137 000 deaths each year. Yet, food safety does not seem to be a major concern within many countries in this continent. For instance, in Ghana, Mali, Kenya and Uganda, food safety does not appear to be a major concern. In South Africa, Korsten states that there is no adequate capacity to forecast and track food-borne diseases even though there have been many outbreaks of food-borne diseases, across different provinces, particularly among school children. This indicates the necessity for a good surveillance system, which could monitor the outbreak of a food-borne disease and prevent it from spreading. In developed countries such as the United States, surveillance systems were developed to collect, analyse and share health data. However, many challenges of food safety exist in South Africa. These include a lack of coordination of the many government departments, which regulate food safety. Food-borne diseases is likely to increase in low- and middle-income countries because of the consumption of food such as uninspected meat, fish products as well as fresh produce.
Ban on S/African fruit, veggies exports to Egypt lifted
Egypt has lifted a temporary suspension imposed on fresh fruit and vegetables imported from South Africa into the North African country, the agriculture ministry has said.Egypt’s temporary suspension was imposed on 10 May 2018 due to an outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa, which affected mainly pre-cooked, ready-to-eat meat products. According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry on Wednesday, Egypt’s decision to lift the suspension follows Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s announcement that the listeriosis outbreak is over, and that no new cases have been reported in the last three months. “The ministry would like to emphasise that all exporters of fresh fruit and vegetables must comply with all phytosanitary, food safety and quality requirements for fresh fruit and vegetables destined for Egypt export market,” the minister said.
‘Fake food’ in South Africa: myths, misinformation and not enough data
Owners of small shops in South Africa – in most cases foreigners – have been accused of stocking counterfeit food and food that’s past its sell-by date. The issue has been caught up in xenophobic violence, with shop owners targeted by South Africans. There is very little hard data about what’s referred to as “fake food” in both the formal and informal sectors. This means the issue is politically charged and dominated by opinions, not evidence. The Conversation Africa’s Ina Skosana asked Jane Battersby-Lennard and Gareth Haysom to unpack this issue. There are many different kinds of counterfeiting. Not all pose a risk to consumers, though some clearly do. Counterfeit doesn’t necessarily mean unsafe, and consumers aren’t necessarily unaware of counterfeiting. They may, in fact, choose these goods for cost or convenience reasons. Counterfeit foods that don’t pose a risk include what are called “diverted products”. These goods are only licensed to be sold in one place or in one format but are sold elsewhere. This could include multipack items sold individually, free promotion goods being sold, or supermarket brand items being sold outside a supermarket. They could be over-runs from factories, or goods taken from food producers by employees and sold on.
SON develops international standards for staple food products
The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has developed international standards for most of the country’s staple food products such as garri, dry beans, soya beans, rice to aid acceptance of its agricultural products in the international market. According to Director, Standards Development, Chinyere Egwuonwu, the standards were developed to ensure they meet the global benchmark and put an end to the high level rejection of Nigeria’s agricultural produce at the international markets. SON is looking to enhance uniformity of standards for agricultural products with CODEX to boost food export and stop rejections of local agro products overseas due to quality and integrity concerns. “We have developed standards for many agricultural products, like Shea butter, dry beans, smoked fish, yam flour, plantain chips, sesame seeds, oil, Rice, Cocoa, Cocoa Butter and Garri. “It will interest you to know that the standard we developed for garri is accepted globally and now adopted by countries in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).