Food Safety


Women waiting to fetch water as cattle drink from a water pan in Taita Taveta, Kenya (photo credit: ILRI/ Juliet Kariuki)

One Health Day is a global campaign marked annually on 3 November to bring attention to the need for a One Health approach to address the shared health threats at the human–animal–environment interface.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) carries out One Health research through its Animal and Human Health program which seeks to effectively manage or eliminate livestock, zoonotic and food-borne diseases through the generation and use of knowledge, technologies and products. 

We commemorate this year’s One Health Day by featuring a selection of the program’s recent research outputs on this important topic.

For more information, contact Delia Randolph (d.randolph@cgiar.org) or Vish Nene (v.nene@cgiar.org), co-leaders of ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program. 

Aflatoxin research at the BecA-ILRI Hub (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

The Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions (IMMANA) program has called for a third round of applications for its competitive research grants. 

The research grants are aimed at accelerating the development of innovative and interdisciplinary methods, metrics and tools to advance scientific understanding of the linkages between agriculture and food systems and health and nutrition outcomes, in order to better inform policy and programmatic actions to improve nutrition outcomes in low- and middle-income countries.

This workstream of the IMMANA program is led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. So far, 15 research grants of up to £250,000 have been awarded over two rounds (Round 1 and Round 2). There will be two funding rounds (Rounds 3 and 4) for the IMMANA Phase 2 grants. Each IMMANA grant will be a maximum of £250,000 and up to eight grants are expected to be awarded through a competitive selection process in each round (total of 16). Applications for Round 3 grants are now open.

For more information about eligibility, the selection process and timelines, visit https://immana.lcirah.ac.uk/grants.

Open Access logo

Open Access Week is celebrated globally every year during the last complete week of October. To mark Open Access Week 2019, we highlight some recent open access research articles authored and co-authored by scientists from the Animal and Human Health program of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). 

The program seeks to effectively manage or eliminate livestock, zoonotic and foodborne diseases that matter to the poor through the generation and use of knowledge, technologies and products, leading to higher farmer incomes and better health and nutrition for consumers and livestock.

Read about our research on antimicrobial resistance, food safety, One Health and zoonotic diseases from this selection of peer-reviewed, open access journal articles published this year:

For more information, contact Delia Randolph (d.randolph@cgiar.org) or Vish Nene (v.nene@cgiar.org), co-leaders of ILRI’s Animal and Human Health program.

A traceability system in the smallholder pig value chain in Kenya could help address challenges related to production, diseases, markets, pork safety and public health, according to a new study published by scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

Currently, Kenya does not have an operational livestock traceability system. Although a few systems have been piloted, these have only focused on the beef value chain and mostly in pastoralist areas. The smallholder pig value chain is suitable for the implementation of a traceability system as farmers usually keep a few pigs at a time and rely on a short marketing chain that is less complex.

The study, published in Tropical Animal Health and Production (16 Sep 2019), was based on a review of literature on pork traceability as well as on pig production in Kenya, with a focus on smallholder pig systems in western Kenya. Combined with the authors’ research experience in the region, the findings were used to inform the design of a traceability system for the smallholder pig value chain. 

Unique identification of animals is important for traceability. However, the review found that locally raised pigs were rarely identified. Farmers need to be made aware of the importance of identifying animals and recording their movements and how this can improve access to markets.

The study explains how a traceability system could support the surveillance of two important pig diseases in the region: African swine fever and porcine cysticercosis.

An effective traceability system could also enable the withdrawal of unsafe pork from the market, thereby helping to ensure the quality and safety of pork sold in local markets.

“Since meat inspection in the country has now been taken up by the county governments, we see traceability as an option that counties, in partnership with the private sector, could use to market themselves as producers of ‘safe and traceable’ pork”, the authors say. 

Starting with organized systems like commercial producer and trader groups, the concept can be piloted in the field to assess its practical application, paving the way for a national traceability system in line with the guidelines of the World Organisation for Animal Health. 

The authors of the study note, however, that implementing traceability as a tool towards improved animal health and food safety would require the participation of all stakeholders in the value chain. Therefore, appropriate incentives would need to be explored to ensure widespread adoption of the intervention.

Citation

Mutua, F., Lindahl, J. and Randolph, D. 2019. Possibilities of establishing a smallholder pig identification and traceability system in Kenya. Tropical Animal Health and Production. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11250-019-02077-9 

Women threshing sorghum in Angonia province, Mozambique (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

There are too many issues with using lactic acid bacteria for aflatoxin binding for the practice to be safely promoted, according to a newly published review. The review adds that using aflatoxin binders in human food might even worsen food safety in the longer term.

“Use of binding agents in foods contradicts all the existing principles and regulations set to ensure food safety. If such a method is promoted, the efforts to combat the aflatoxin problem at farm level and throughout the value chain, to eliminate and reduce the contaminants, could be compromised,” the study says.

Aflatoxins continue to be a food safety problem globally, especially in developing regions. A significant amount of effort and resources have been invested to control aflatoxins. However, these efforts have not substantially decreased the prevalence nor the dietary exposure to aflatoxins in developing countries. 

One approach to aflatoxin control is the use of binding agents in foods, and lactic acid bacteria have been studied extensively for this purpose. However, when assessing the results comprehensively and reviewing the practicality and ethics of use, risks are evident and concerns arise. 

The study notes that aflatoxin binding research has approached the issue from a one-component ‘silver bullet’ solution instead of focusing on a comprehensive approach to aflatoxin control that considers good agricultural practices at the farm level and good manufacturing practices during production. 

Promoting increased diversity of diets, particularly of staple crops, may contribute towards reduced exposure to aflatoxins. Additionally, the role of food safety authorities needs to be strengthened to safeguard food quality in both formal and informal markets.

Citation

Ahlberg, S., Randolph, D., Okoth, S. and Lindahl, J. 2019. Aflatoxin binders in foods for human consumption—Can this be promoted safely and ethically? Toxins 11(7): 410.

CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health 2018 annual report cover

The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has published its 2018 annual report, highlighting program activities and research results from across A4NH’s five research flagships and five focus countries. These include:

  • research into consumer choices, motives and barriers through the lens of vegetable consumption in urban Nigeria;
  • building the evidence base with newly-published research that shows biofortified high-iron pearl millet can significantly improve nutrition and cognitive performance;
  • significant research contributions to help policymakers and consumers understand food safety issues and risks;
  • how agriculture and nutrition interventions delivered through community-based childcare centres can impact nutrient intake, dietary diversity and nutritional status;
  • improving hospital diagnostics for human brucellosis; and
  • an exploration of gender research projects being conducted under A4NH.
Food market near Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).
Food market near Khulungira Village, in central Malawi (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Today marks the first ever World Food Safety Day following the adoption in December 2018 of a resolution by the United Nations General Assembly to set aside 7 June of every year to celebrate the benefits of safe food and inspire action towards preventing and managing foodborne diseases.

In Asia and Africa, most livestock products and fresh produce are sold in informal markets. The human health burden from foodborne disease is comparable to that of malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis. Unsafe food is also a barrier to market access for poor farmers.

Food safety is a key part of the research portfolio of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). ILRI leads the food safety flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH). This flagship seeks food safety solutions that can work in informal markets; it focuses primarily on mitigating aflatoxin contamination in key staples and on managing risks in informal markets for nutrient-rich perishables like meat, milk, fish and vegetables.

Our approach to food safety research is based on risk analysis. We identify the hazards in food and build the capacity of policymakers to understand risk-based approaches; policy will be more effective and efficient if based on actual risk to human health rather than the presence of hazards. We generate evidence and develop solutions to improve the safety of animal products in informal food markets.

Better management of foodborne diseases could save nearly half a million lives a year and safeguard the livelihoods of over one billion small-scale livestock producers. Indeed, there is no food security without food safety.

Some of the collaborative food safety projects that ILRI has led in the past include work on mitigating the risk of mycotoxins in the feed–dairy value chain in Kenya, improving food safety in smallholder pig value chains in Vietnam and food safety risk assessment and piloting of food safety interventions in eight countries in Africa.

Our current food safety projects seek to test market-based approaches to improve food safety in Cambodia, Vietnam, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia.  

Listed below are some recent publications on food safety by ILRI and partners.

For more information on ILRI’s food safety research, contact the A4NH food safety flagship leader Delia Grace Randolph (d.randolph@cgiar.org).

Next Page »