To commemorate this year’s World Food Safety Day (7 June) under the theme Safer food, better health, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has launched an online food safety campaign and landing page to showcase its collaborative research on risk-based approaches to improving food safety in low- and middle-income countries.

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.

ILRI’s 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. ILRI’s approach is therefore to generate research evidence and develop solutions to improve the safety of animal products in informal food markets.

Visit the landing page to read key food safety messages as well as the latest food safety news from ILRI and information on projects and selected publications. You will also find the profiles of ILRI scientists involved in food safety research.

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

Photo credit: World Health Organization

World Food Safety Day is celebrated annually on 7 June to raise awareness on the importance of safe food and its contribution to healthy lives, healthy economies and a healthy future.

The theme this year is Safe food now for a healthy tomorrow. Our food systems need to produce enough safe food for all. A One Health approach to food safety that recognizes the connections between the health of people, animals and the environment will improve food safety and help meet the nutritional and health needs of the future. Indeed, there is no food security without food safety.

Food safety is everyone’s business. Governments must put in place supportive regulatory frameworks that ensure access to safe and nutritious food for all. Farmers and other food producers need to adopt good agricultural practices to prevent contamination of food products at the farm level. Business operators must make sure food is safe at all stages of processing and distribution of food products. Consumers, too, have a role to play in learning about safe and healthy food so that they are empowered to demand for access to safe food.

The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) has a longstanding record of collaborative research on risk-based approaches to improving food safety in traditional, informal markets.

ILRI leads the food safety flagship of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. The main research focus is on mitigating aflatoxin contamination in key staples and on managing risks in traditional, informal markets for nutrient-rich perishables like meat, milk, fish and vegetables.

We commemorate this year’s World Food Safety Day by shining the spotlight on ILRI’s research on food safety. Listed below is a selection of recent food safety publications from collaborative research by ILRI and partners.

Hai Hoang Tuan Ngo, Luong Nguyen-Thanh, Phuc Pham-Duc, Sinh Dang-Xuan, Hang Le-Thi, Denis-Robichaud, J., Hung Nguyen-Viet, Trang T.H. Le, Grace, D. and Unger, F. 2021. Microbial contamination and associated risk factors in retailed pork from key value chains in Northern Vietnam. International Journal of Food Microbiology 346: 109163.

Murungi, M.K., Muloi, D.M., Muinde, P., Githigia, S.M., Akoko, J., Fèvre, E.M., Rushton, J. and Alarcon, P. 2021. The Nairobi pork value chain: Mapping and assessment of governance, challenges, and food safety issues. Frontiers in Veterinary Science 8: 581376.

Rortana, C., Hung Nguyen-Viet, Tum, S., Unger, F., Boqvist, S., Sinh Dang-Xuan, Koam, S., Grace, D., Osbjer, K., Heng, T., Sarim, S., Phirum, O., Sophia, R. and Lindahl, J.F. 2021. Prevalence of Salmonella spp. and Staphylococcus aureus in chicken meat and pork from Cambodian markets. Pathogens 10(5): 556.

Mutua, F., Kang’ethe, E. and Grace, D. 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for food safety in East Africa. ILRI Discussion Paper 40. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute). 2021. Keeping foods safe leads to healthier people, livestock and environment. Livestock pathways to 2030: One Health Brief 4. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Mutua, F. 2021. Food safety in One Health. Video. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

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

Photo credit: World Health Organization

Following the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), measures to contain its spread have affected several aspects of the food value chain, including safety. Although COVID-19 is not transmitted through food, poor hygiene and sanitation can enhance its spread.

Scientists from the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) recently led a study to examine the impacts of COVID-19 mitigation measures on food safety in East Africa.

Data were collected in November and December 2020 through telephone and online interviews with 25 food safety experts based in East Africa who had previously worked with ILRI scientists on food safety projects.

The study found that the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent control measures, including restriction of movement and dusk-to-dawn curfews, disrupted various food supply chains.

In East Africa, the livestock value chain was most affected, with supplies of meat, dairy and poultry products being disrupted. Also affected were supply chains for fruits, vegetables and fish. The cereals value chain was perceived to be the least affected.

With regard to regulation, market surveillance programs for food safety were disrupted. In addition, concerns were noted on the safety of bulk-purchased food, for example, the risk of aflatoxins or the expiry of food products.

In general, the study observed that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly impacted food systems in East Africa in terms of access to and safety of food products.

The authors therefore recommend that interventions to address future pandemics consider the possible negative impacts of disease mitigation measures; a One Health approach would facilitate this.

Citation

Mutua, F., Kang’ethe, E. and Grace, D. 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic and its implications for food safety in East Africa. ILRI Discussion Paper 40. Nairobi, Kenya: ILRI.

Photo credit: Fruit and vegetable on sale in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg)

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.

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

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.

Photo credit: World Health Organization

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).