Pork at the wet market

A local pork vendor at the wet market sells her meat to two local women, Hung Yen province, Vietnam (photo credit: ILRI/Nguyen Ngoc Huyen).

 

The 2014–2015 Global Food Policy Report launched last week (18 March 2015) by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) examines the major food policy issues, developments and decisions around the world in 2014 and highlights challenges and opportunities for 2015.

An entire chapter has been dedicated to the subject of food safety which is a major global concern. The chapter titled Food safety: Reducing and managing food scares is authored by Delia Grace, leader of the Food Safety and Zoonoses program at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and John McDermott, director of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture and Health (A4NH) led by IFPRI.

The chapter begins with a review of the high-profile foodborne disease events that took place in 2014 as well as progress that has been made around the world to improve the management of infectious disease through better information, technology and institutions.

The complexity and diversity of food safety concerns in three ‘worlds’ – developed economies, least developed economies and emerging economies – are examined next.

The authors define developed economies as those where foodborne diseases are of high concern but impose relatively small health burdens. Least developed economies are those where foodborne diseases, although prevalent, are not among the highest priorities of public health officials. Emerging economies are those where foodborne diseases are both highly prevalent and highly prioritized.

The chapter also discusses other health impacts of agriculture such as antimicrobial resistance, which is emerging as a serious threat to human health. This is especially so in emerging economies, where large amounts of antibiotics are manufactured and used with minimal regulation or reporting.

“There is increasing consensus that resistance to antimicrobials of human importance has been generated in animals and has since spread to humans,” the authors note.

The chapter concludes with suggestions for better management of food safety, noting that food safety is a global public good and, as such, requires international cooperation and investment in safer agricultural and food systems.