Food Safety


Locally made beef stew sold in Bagnon market at Yopougon, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (photo credit: ILRI/Valentin Bognan Koné).

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa launched its 2020 Africa Agriculture Status Report during the African Green Revolution Forum virtual summit hosted in Kigali, Rwanda on 8-11 September 2020.

This year’s report focuses on the challenges of feeding Africa’s cities and the opportunities available to smallholder farmers and agribusinesses to meet the needs of the continent’s fast growing urban food markets.

The report features a chapter on food safety and public health in urban food markets in Africa. Currently, Africa suffers from the highest per capita rate of foodborne illnesses in the world. The riskiest foods from a health perspective are animal-source foods, fruits and fresh vegetables. Consumption of these food products is rising rapidly in African cities.

Improving food safety in Africa’s urban food markets — both the dominant informal markets and the growing formal markets — will go a long way to safeguard the health of consumers and reduce the economic and health burden of foodborne illnesses.

Interventions include improving domestic market infrastructure, training of food handlers and increasing awareness of the shared responsibility of regulators and value chain actors to provide safe food.

Unsafe food directly undermines human health and jeopardises the attainment of national, continental and global development goals. For this reason, African governments urgently need to prioritize food safety and adopt policies and strategies that will ensure the delivery of adequate and safe food to urban markets.

Citation
Kang’ethe, E., Grace, D., Alonso, S., Lindahl, J., Mutua, F. and Haggblade, S. 2020. Food safety and public health implications of growing urban food markets. IN: AGRA, Africa Agriculture Status Report. Feeding Africa’s cities: Opportunities, challenges, and policies for linking African farmers with growing urban food markets. Issue 8. Nairobi, Kenya: Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). pp. 101–119.

Roadside market. Mozambique, Angonia province (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

As the impacts of COVID-19 spread across the globe, the virus threatens more than health systems worldwide. It also poses serious risks to food security, local businesses, national economies and hard-fought progress by stakeholders at all levels towards the Sustainable Development Goals. The global response to the pandemic must be swift and science-based, harnessing knowledge for emergency response, recovery and resilience.

Research leaders in health and agriculture have launched a new COVID-19 Hub to consolidate existing scientific evidence and help support response, recovery and resilience measures in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. As United Nations Secretary General António Guterres warned recently, immediate action on food systems is needed to prevent a global food emergency that could have long-term health effects.

The CGIAR COVID-19 Hub, coordinated by CGIAR, the world’s largest publicly funded agricultural research network, brings together the latest science on agriculture and health to inform a research-based response to the pandemic.

The International Livestock Research Institute joins the International Food Policy Research Institute, the CGIAR System Organization and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine as co-implementers of the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub.

Hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health, the Hub provides a coordinated research response to the pandemic, convening researchers, funders and key stakeholders.

It focuses on supporting national response and recovery work across CGIAR research themes through the response, recovery and resilience phases of the pandemic, with work from across CGIAR’s global network of 14 research centres and 15 research programs and platforms, in close collaboration with other research organizations, policymakers, non-governmental organizations and many other stakeholders.

Fruit and vegetables on sale alongside other food items in a local market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (photo credit: ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg).

African food systems are dominated by informal markets, typically open-air markets found at designated sites and street corners, which often have poor hygiene and are subject to limited or poor regulation. Occasionally there are calls for these informal markets to be banned, but most consumers depend on them as they are more accessible and affordable than formal markets.

As we celebrate World Food Safety Day on 7 June 2020, it is crucial that governments recognize the importance of better food safety in informal markets. One way to encourage them to take food safety seriously is by harnessing the power of consumer demand.

Foodborne diseases cause a massive health burden and remain a persistent impediment to socio-economic development. The World Health Organization estimates that close to 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die every year from foodborne diseases worldwide. Children under five years of age make up 125,000 of those deaths.

Africa bears the largest per capita burden of foodborne diseases. Every year, more than 91 million people fall ill and 137,000 lose their lives, a toll comparable to the continent’s losses from major infectious diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

In Ethiopia, as in other developing countries, most consumers buy their food from informal markets, attracted by their low prices, freshness, availability of local products and credit services. However, consumers are concerned about the safety of the food they buy from these markets, and they show this in their purchasing behaviour. Research has found that consumers would pay 5–15% more for safety-assured products.

Furthermore, demand for food safety increases with economic development, rising income, urbanization, increased media coverage and education level. The current COVID-19 pandemic has made consumers more conscious of the safety of the food they buy and eat.

The Government of Ethiopia is working to increase the use of appropriate food safety assurance systems to ensure food quality and safety, but challenges include limited infrastructure and human capacity, such as laboratory facilities and trained personnel. A further challenge is that consumers often cannot detect unsafe food.

In contrast, food products developed for export markets receive considerable attention and are subject to higher standards of food safety. Decision-makers understand that meeting international food quality and safety regulatory requirements is a must for building trust among foreign trading partners.

This success has led to attempts to directly adopt some export food safety approaches for food products marketed in the informal market. However, since the settings are so different these approaches rarely work.

An alternative approach that is showing considerable promise is to harness consumers’ concerns about food safety to create greater demand for safe food. This simple approach requires educating consumers and increasing the awareness and capacity of food retailers and producers.

Urban food markets in Africa: Incentivizing food safety using a pull-push approach is a research project led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. It develops and tests a novel but simple and practical approach to improving food safety: building consumer demand for safe food, traders’ ability to deliver it and regulator capacity to support it. It is, in short, a pull-push approach.

For the success of this approach, consumers need to be better informed on safe food including choice, purchase, storage and preparation. In addition, traders and producers need to be supported to develop their capacity to provide safe food and regulators need advice to create an enabling environment.

While regional estimates of the incidence of foodborne diseases are available, less is known at the country level. This project will also provide estimates of the incidence of key foodborne diseases in Ethiopia and provide a better understanding of the cost of foodborne diseases, how these diseases manifest and how they can be controlled.

Food safety is one of the key elements of ILRI’s research portfolio. Our approach to food safety is risk-based, identifying foodborne hazards, generating evidence, developing solutions and building the capacity of policymakers to use risk-based approaches to improve food safety in informal markets.

This feature article for World Food Safety Day was written by Beamlak Tesfaye, a communications officer at ILRI, and Theo Knight-Jones, a senior scientist at ILRI. It was originally published by The Reporter.

Visit the ILRI World Food Safety Day 2020 landing page for more information on our research on food safety in informal markets.

World Food Safety Day 2020 poster

To mark the second World Food Safety Day that will be celebrated on 7 June 2020, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has launched an online food safety campaign and landing page at https://www.ilri.org/world-food-safety-day-2020

The campaign draws attention to ILRI’s long-standing collaborative research on risk-based approaches to improving food safety in informal markets. 

On the landing page you will find a set of key messages on food safety in informal markets as well as links to news, projects, publications, photos and videos on food safety. You will also be able to read the profiles of some of the ILRI experts involved in food safety research. 

Also featured on the page are the voices of some of our partners who share in the mission of working to ensure that the food we buy and eat is safe. 

Remember: there is no food security without food safety and if it is not safe, it is not food!

Join the online conversations by following the hashtags #FoodSafety, #SafeFood and #WorldFoodSafetyDay.

A4NH 2019 annual report cover

The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has just released its 2019 annual report, highlighting activities and accomplishments from its five research flagships, cross-cutting work on gender and equity, and partnerships that have led to research outcomes in over 20 countries.

These include:

  • empowering stakeholders at national level to build food systems that support healthier diets;
  • generating research evidence on the nutritional and health benefits of biofortification;
  • supporting international developments in food safety with quality research and engagement;
  • engaging in global conversations on food systems, nutrition and diets; and
  • linking research and policy to achieve results on critical zoonotic diseases.

Access the A4NH 2019 annual report or read the interactive online summary.

Customers at a milk bar in Ndumbuini in Kabete, Nairobi (photo credit: ILRI/Paul Karaimu).

A new study published in Preventive Veterinary Medicine has investigated the governance structure of the Nairobi dairy value chain and the challenges faced by stakeholders and how these impact on food safety.

The dairy value chain of Nairobi consists mostly of small-scale independent enterprises that operate within a complex interlinked system. In this complexity, the coordination and power structures of the system may have major influences on the management of dairy food safety.

The study was carried out by a team of scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute, the Kenya Directorate of Veterinary Services, Royal College London, the University of Liverpool and the University of Nairobi as part of a research project on the epidemiology, ecology and socio-economics of disease emergence in Nairobi.

The researchers collected qualitative data through focus group discussions and key informant interviews based on a dairy value chain mapping framework previously developed. Thematic analysis enabled identification of governance themes, key challenges and analysis of their implications on food safety. Themes were organized depending on their association with farmers (informal settlement or peri-urban), dairy cooperatives, dairy traders, processing companies, retailers or government officers.

The identified governance themes included (i) weak linkage between government and farmers, (ii) inadequate compliance with government regulations by traders and retailers, (iii) emphasis on business licenses and permits for revenue rather than for food safety, (iv) multiple licensing resulting in high business cost and lack of compliance, (v) fragmented regulation, (vi) unfair competition and (vii) sanctions that do not always result in compliance.

The key challenges identified included (i) inadequate farmer support, (ii) harassment of traders and retailers and (iii) high business costs for traders, retailers, dairy cooperatives and large processors.

The implication of governance and challenges of food safety were, among others, (i) inadequate extension services, (ii) insufficient cold chain, (iii) delivery of adulterated and low milk quality to bulking centres, (iv) inadequate food safety training and (v) lack of policies for management of waste milk.

The range of issues highlighted is based on stakeholders’ perceptions and reflects the complexity of the relationships between them. Many of the governance themes demonstrate the linkages that are both beneficial or confrontational between the formal and informal sectors, and between industry and regulatory authorities, with possible direct food safety consequences.

The findings of the study give indications to decision-makers of potential governance areas that could help improve efficiency and food safety along the dairy value chain.

Citation
Kiambi, S., Onono, J.O., Kang’ethe, E., Aboge, G.O., Murungi, M.K., Muinde, P., Akoko, J., Momanyi, K., Rushton, J., Fèvre, E.M. and Alarcon, P. 2020. Investigation of the governance structure of the Nairobi dairy value chain and its influence on food safety. Preventive Veterinary Medicine 179: 105009.

Maize. Mozambique, Tete province, Pacassa village (photo credit: ILRI/Mann).

In sub-Saharan Africa, contamination of dairy feed with mycotoxins has been frequently reported. Mycotoxins pose a threat to animal health and productivity and are a hazard to human health as some mycotoxins and their metabolites are excreted in milk, such as aflatoxin M1.

A new review paper published in the journal Toxins (April 2020) describes the major mycotoxins, their occurrence and their impact in dairy cattle diets in sub-Saharan Africa, highlighting the problems related to animal health, productivity and food safety and the latest post-harvest mitigation strategies to prevent and reduce contamination of dairy feed with mycotoxins.

Citation
Kemboi, D.C., Antonissen, G., Ochieng, P.E., Croubels, S., Okoth, S., Kang’ethe, E.K., Faas, J., Lindahl, J.F. and Gathumbi, J.K. 2020. A review of the impact of mycotoxins on dairy cattle health: Challenges for food safety and dairy production in sub-Saharan Africa. Toxins 12(4): 222.

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.

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