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.
How crowdsourcing can improve food safety
Unsafe foods cost developing economies over $110 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses each year, according to the World Bank’s own figures. And yet in many cases surveillance is limited, and there are few effective ways for a consumer to report a case of food poisoning. New Technology Can Help: This is where we believe new technology solutions can make a significant contribution. In the large towns and cities of the pantropics the mobile phone now reigns supreme: it is possible to input citizen data accurately in order to detect food poisoning and identify issues in real time. This is what motivated us to found Iwaspoisoned.com and B2B service Dinesafe.org. We think the journey we embarked on – and the hurdles we faced – could provide interesting lessons to entrepreneurs and policy-makers who are eager to harness the power of data to fix age-old problems. Iwaspoisoned.com detects outbreaks using a rigorous vetting process overseen by a staff of experts. It was our platform which flagged up Chipotle Mexican Grill sickening their customers in the United States several times in recent years. The company lost over 10 billion dollars in market cap as a result of their food safety missteps and the founder was forced to step down as CEO. In other recent cases we detected an outbreak of E. coli infections related to well water at a popular US tourist destination in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, with over 500 people impacted across multiple states; identified over 70 cases of norovirus linked to a restaurant in Danbury, Connecticut; and flagged 100 people who got sick from contaminated shellfish in the San Francisco Bay Area. In all, the site has been receiving reports and detecting outbreaks from all around the world since 2009.
Food safety projects in Africa benefiting donor nations
Over half of donor-funded food safety initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa focus on overseas markets, and thus are insufficient to tackle food safety issues of African consumers, a report reveals. According to the report, food safety deserves urgent attention because foodborne hazards account for 91 million acute illnesses and 137,000 deaths annually in Africa. The World Bank estimates shows that each year unsafe food costs economies of low- and middle-income countries about US$110 billion in lost productivity and healthcare expenses. “The report is a call to action to develop and implement feasible, locally relevant interventions that we know can reduce the severe consequences of foodborne illness,” says Michael Taylor, co-author of the Global Food Safety Partnership report released last week (6 February). For instance, the report found that less than five per cent of donor investments addressed specific public health risks, such as Salmonella and E.coli, that local consumers face when purchasing from informal food markets. The report is based on data collected on 518 donor-funded food safety initiatives in Sub-Saharan Africa between 2010 and 2017, and interviews with almost 200 experts.“Donor food safety investments are overwhelmingly focused on supporting overseas market access, trade and formal markets rather than on the public health problem of foodborne illness,” says the report.
More than half of donor funded food safety initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa are focused on overseas markets, with less than half on domestic consumers, a new report from the Global Food Safety Partnership has found. An analysis of more than 500 projects and activities in sub-Saharan Africa since 2010 found most focused on food safety for exports. While exports are crucial for economies, the African continent suffers the world’s worst levels of food safety, causing human capital losses of an estimated $16.7 billion a year in Africa. The Partnership called for more investment into programs focusing on public health after finding less than five per cent of donor investments addressed specific health risks, such as Salmonella and E.coli, that local consumers face when purchasing from informal food markets. The report, launched ahead of the first International Food Safety Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, highlighted the need for more targeted investment to promote food safety at a domestic level across Africa, where foodborne illnesses claim an estimated 137,000 lives a year, according to figures from the World Health Organization (WHO). Globally, foodborne disease has a public health burden similar to malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. “The future of the food system is critical to the long-term well-being of Africa and its people, and for the global food system to be a successful provider, the food must be safe for everyone,” said Juergen Voegele, Senior Director for Food and Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank, which hosts the Global Food Safety Partnership. “With growing populations and changing diets, now is the time to take stock of the current food safety landscape in Africa and for new efforts to address old challenges. It is time to examine what the international donor community is doing to help address these challenges, and how donors, governments, the private sector and consumers can work together to strengthen Africa’s food safety system.”
Enterprise Polony is back on shelves after listeriosis – with ‘improved food safety’ and a price higher than the competition
After more than 200 deaths linked to Listeria bacteria apparently spread by its factory, Enterprise polony is back on shelves with only small changes to its packaging. It has not re-entered the market at a discount; Enterprise polony is among the most expensive on shelves we checked. Polony prices increased sharply in December, and are now back above year-ago levels, before listeriosis. Enterprise polony – blamed for more than 200 deaths in the worst outbreak of listeriosis the world has ever seen – is back on shelves less than a year later, and it isn’t cheap. Side-by-side shelf comparisons this week showed that Enterprise was on sale for a premium of 7% over Pick n Pay’s “No Name” house brand French polony, and at a price nearly 20% more than chicken polony.
The FAO/WHO/WTO International Forum on Food Safety and Trade
The forum will take place on 23-24 April 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. Continuing the discussions from the Addis Conference, the Geneva Forum will address the trade-related aspects and challenges of food safety. The food safety priorities set by this Conference will facilitate global collaboration and help ensure that no one is left behind. The conference will result in a document summarizing key issues and recommendations from both, the Addis Conference and the Geneva Forum, to better align and coordinate efforts to strengthen food safety systems across sectors and borders.
The First FAO/WHO/AU International Food Safety Conference
The conference will take on place on 12-13 February 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia At the Addis Ababa Conference, priorities will be discussed so that food safety strategies and approaches can be aligned across sectors and borders, reinforcing efforts to reach the SDGs and supporting the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition. Strategic actions will be defined through Ministerial panels involving health, trade and agriculture officials and experts thematic sessions covering the topics of: the burden of foodborne diseases and the benefits of investing in safe food; safe and sustainable food systems in an era of accelerated climate change; science, innovation and digital transformation at the service of food safety; empowering consumers to make healthy choices and support sustainable food systems. The conference will result in a high-level political statement advocating for increased and better coordinated collaboration and support to improve food safety globally.
Proper monitoring could improve food safety and nutrition security
Key actors in the meat value chain industry in Ghana has urged for a more enabling environment in the sector to ensure sustainable quality meat processing standards for food safety and nutrition security. The consultation organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) served as a springboard for dialogue on the improvement of the meat inspection system in Ghana and also to deepen an effective partnership. The two-day consultation engaged actors and Ghana’s competent authorities to carry out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis within the value chain. Additionally, the workshop focused on building the technical capacity for meat inspectors, butchers and meat cutters. FAO contribution of building capacity along the meat value chain: The meat industry is an important sector of the agricultural economy in Ghana, which represents a significant opportunity for livestock farmers, meat processors and consumers in the country but also constitutes to a big challenge for safe processing and marketing of meat and meat products. Speaking at the opening of the consultation, Anthony Akunzule, National Project Coordinator, Emergency Center for Transboundary (ECTAD), Ghana, explains that, “Despite the huge contributions in the meat inspection system, it is still burdened with many challenges in this present era in which Ghana has signed on the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005)” of the World Health Organization.
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.
SA hosts global conference on food safety, security
A conference on food security hosted by the University of Johannesburg, the University of Pretoria, the Human Sciences Research Council, the Agricultural Research Council in South Africa and the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security kicked off on Monday to discuss technologies in the sector. With the vast majority of the world’s hungry living in developing countries, local solutions are required to address relevant sustainable development, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) said. The October 15 – 17 forum will allow world leaders in this field to engage in high level research conversations enabling South Africa to showcase innovation and indigenous knowledge, thereby strengthening international collaboration. “The transition in the concept of food security from the 1950s to date has been strategic and inclusive towards ensuring sustainable access and availability of safe and nutritious foods,” the UJ said.
Africa sets sights on tackling foodborne disease burden
An index to help tackle the burden of foodborne diseases in Africa launched this week. The African Food Safety Index (AFSI) was unveiled by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), with the African Union Commission, CGIAR A4NH, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N., and the World Health Organization. It will provide data necessary for African countries to prioritize food safety, reduce foodborne illnesses and improve trade and income. The index will be embedded by all 55 African Union countries into the Malabo Declaration biennial review. AFSI will be pilot-tested in three countries in Africa and findings will be validated with stakeholders to refine the index. CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group of states and the European Union with the latter providing funding. The institution said food safety tracking and country level efforts to meet benchmarks are expected to have a domino effect on the prioritization of food safety and policy making. This is expected to lead to improvements in food safety management, enhance food security and nutrition, reduce the burden of foodborne illnesses, and enhance access to markets and overall development.
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).