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.

Delia Grace

Delia Grace presenting at a side session on ‘Food safety: Options for addressing a growing crisis’ at IFPRI’s 2020 Conference on ‘Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security’ (photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan)

On 15-17 May 2014, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) held an international conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on building resilience for food and nutrition security, with over 700 participants in attendance including researchers, policymakers and decision-makers.

Scientists from the Food Safety and Zoonoses program of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) were among the many speakers who presented at parallel sessions and side events.

Delia Grace gave a presentation on food safety in informal markets during a side event on Food safety: Options for addressing a growing crisis. She also spoke on dealing with food safety, nutrition, and public health crises during one of the parallel sessions.

Hung Nguyen-Viet spoke on food-borne diseases and public health shocks in East Asia and the Pacific while Bernard Bett presented on managing impacts from infectious disease outbreaks in dryland areas of East Africa.

More ILRI reports from the conference

Visit the conference website for more information and to access more of the conference resources.

On 9-11 October 2013, participants from five CGIAR centres met at Naivasha in Kenya to share about their current activities related to mycotoxin research and to plan for how these different activities might contribute to the next phase of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) mycotoxin research portfolio.

The meeting was attended by representatives from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the Biosciences eastern and central Africa Hub at ILRI.

Scientists presented their current mycotoxin research activities, the research gaps and opportunities they see, and areas for development. In addition, IITA presented on Biocontrol using atoxigenic Aspergillus flavus and ILRI presented on risk analysis as the current gold standard for assessing, managing and communicating food safety. All presentations are available at https://aghealth.wordpress.com/presentations-at-the-second-joint-cgiar-meeting-on-mycotoxins.

The group agreed that mycotoxins were a key area for food safety and trade in Africa; that it was important to co-ordinate CGIAR activities across A4NH; that moving into a second phase of A4NH emphasis was needed on developing strong impact pathways that linked research with development outcomes.

To this end, the group established three working groups to plan and coordinate mycotoxin research across CGIAR centres:

  • Evidence for risk and risk mitigation
  • Diagnostics for use
  • Population biology for control

Download the workshop report

Harvested maize in  Pacassa village, Tete province, Mozambique

Harvested maize in Mozambique. Aflatoxins in maize and other staple crops pose significant public health risks in many developing countries (photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann).

Earlier this week, on Tuesday 5 November 2013, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) launched a set of 19 research briefs on managing aflatoxins for improved food safety.

Aflatoxins are naturally occurring carcinogenic by-products of fungi on grains and other crops like maize and groundnuts. They pose a significant threat to public health in many developing countries and are also a barrier to the growth of domestic and international commercial markets for food and feed.

Acute exposure to high levels of aflatoxins can be fatal while chronic exposure to aflatoxins has been linked to liver cancer and is estimated to cause as many as 26,000 deaths annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Aflatoxins have also been linked to stunted growth in children and immune system disorders.

The set of briefs – Aflatoxins: Finding Solutions for Improved Food Safety – provides different perspectives on aflatoxin risks and solutions. The analyses fall under four broad themes:

  1. what is known about the health risks from aflatoxins;
  2. how to overcome market constraints to improved aflatoxin control by building new market channels and incentives;
  3. what is the international policy context for taking action in developing countries; and
  4. what is the state of research on new aflatoxin control technologies, including new methods for aflatoxin detection, crop breeding, biological control, food storage and handling, and postharvest mitigation.

The briefs are co-edited by Laurian Unnevehr, senior research fellow at IFPRI and theme leader for value chains for enhanced nutrition in the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), and Delia Grace, veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and theme leader for agriculture-associated diseases in A4NH.

Access the individual research briefs

Download the full set of research briefs (PDF)

Read more about ILRI’s research projects on aflatoxins:

On 3-4 September 2012 participants from five CGIAR centres met at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi to share about their activities related to mycotoxin research and to plan how these different activities might work together within the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) mycotoxin research portfolio.

Representatives attended from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),  the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and ILRI.

The meeting report is now published, highlighting the key issues, decisions and action points.

Download the meeting report.

Aflatoxin-contaminated groundnut kernels

Aflatoxin-contaminated groundnut kernels from Mozambique (photo credit: IITA).

On 3-4 September 2012 participants from five CGIAR centres met at the headquarters of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Nairobi to share about their current activities related to mycotoxin research and to plan for how these different activities might work together within the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) mycotoxin research portfolio.

Representatives from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA),  the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and ILRI presented their current mycotoxin research activities, the challenges they are facing and opportunities for further work.

The group selected three major focus areas of mycotoxin research:

  • risk and impact assessment
  • values chains
  • biocontrol

These focal areas were selected based on their potential to be used as platforms for other research and for the strategic opportunity harmonizing existing efforts within the CGIAR system would bring.

During the meeting, participants started to identify opportunities and potential partners within these major areas, and the refinement of this list will continue in the weeks following the meeting.

Partners working in the East Africa region attended part of the meeting to share information about mycotoxin research, the policy environment, mitigation efforts and levels of awareness and education in the region.

They also provided helpful input on the opportunities identified by A4NH researchers during the meeting.

A follow-up meeting is tentatively planned for January 2013.


Article contributed by Amanda Wyatt of IFPRI.