Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Consultation Topic: Food Safety, Loss, and Waste

This discussion will focus on research opportunities related to food safety, loss and waste. There is a need to better understand the dietary consequences of loss and waste of nutritious food and the effect of exposure to food safety issues that occur throughout the supply chain. Mitigation strategies for both loss and waste and food safety could take place anywhere along the supply chain, and are particularly needed in informal markets, where many of the nutritionally vulnerable source foods are found.  

We encourage you to actively engage by sharing your experience and thoughts on additional areas for research. Your engagement will inform USAID as it shapes its priorities for nutrition and food systems investments into the future.

Click “Add New Comment” below to start or join the conversation. Please consider these questions as they relate to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab literature review (See Event Resources to the right): 

  • Low food safety throughout the various segments of the food supply chain can lead to malabsorption of nutrients, diarrhea, infectious disease, poor birth outcomes, growth faltering, and in some cases result in mortality. What other evidence needs to be generated to establish a link between food safety and nutrition? 
  • What do we know about isolated segments of value chain where various forms of contamination is most likely to begin or grow?  What gaps in knowledge exist within the segments? 
  • A significant research gap has been noted around the mitigation of post-harvest loss, particularly of high value/nutrient dense crops. Investment in post-harvest loss reduction could be a quick impact intervention for enhancing food security and thus improving nutrition. How can advancements in technologies help minimize food loss and mitigate the impact that loss and waste is having on the availability of nutritious foods, at the population or household level?
  • What short-, medium-, and long-term outcome measures are missing to measure change in agriculture and food systems for nutrition?  
  • What remains to be done to help guide the development of harmonized measurements for consumer outcomes (food-groups and dietary diversity indicators)? Are there other measurements we should be considering? 

This discussion will remain open from November 12-15 2019. Moderated discussions will take place:

  • November 14, 10-12 AM EST (UCT 15:00-17:00), Johanna Andrews-Trevino, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab
  • November 14, 10:00 PM-12:00 AM EST (November 15, UCT 3:00-5:00), Ashish Pokharel, Research Manager, Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab

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Interseted to be part of this discussion 

Thank you for your comment, we look forward to hearing your insights and others' perspectives as well. Additionally, please join us for a kick-off webinar with the Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab for an overview of findings from their recent literature review to identify research opportunities to strengthen food systems and improve nutrition today, Tuesday 12 November, 2019 from 09:00 AM - 10:30 AM Time (GMT-05:00) Eastern Time (US and Canada) please join us here: http://jsi.adobeconnect.com/edwwa2wuvz5k/event/registration.html

Welcome to the forum on food safety, loss, and waste. While we welcome comments at any time, please use the questions above to guide the conversation. Additonally, please join us for the following moderated discussions on this forum: 

  • November 14, 10-12 AM EST (UCT 15:00-17:00), moderated by Johanna Andrews-Trevino, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab
  • November 14, 10:00 PM-12:00 AM EST (UCT 3:00-5:00), moderated by Ashish Pokharel, Research Manager, Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab

We'd like to remind everyone that the discussion will continue through next Monday November 18th, so please feel free to continue the conversation. Please note that you may need to refresh your web browser to see new comments. Additionally, please follow this link to watch a short 10-minute video focused on this topic: food safety, loss, and waste.

Global Food Safety Issues

Food handling at various levels has become a threat and compromises food safety regulations. From homes to the restaurants, street foods, during travels in flights and ships, during occasions etc, it is increasingly becoming difficult to have safe foods, Consumers most often come down with one form of food infection/poisoning or the other. Standard procedures are often available but for many reasons, these procedures are not followed. how then shall food be consumed in a safe form? What assurance can one get about the safety of foods before consumption?

Great question Bronson. This is why we focus on the role of businesses and how to incentivize them to adopt food safety practices and technologies. The regulatory environment is important, as is the role of food enterprises as caretakers of best practices. 

Hi Bronson, great question. You are right, maintaining food safety throughout all levels is extremely challenging. Training by itself is relatively ineffective and it seems better success can be achieved if training is combined with strategies to change market conditions (e.g. changing incentives and accountability environment). We need a better understanding of how to incentivize food handlers to implement best practices. 

Hello Johanna, thanks for your comment. In terms of accountability enviroment; as stated this is brought by climate change. Let's change our approach on climate change and work with nature rather than against it. Let’s explore and expand our mindset from climate emergency to climate opportunity. Moving the date could deliver wealth & wellbeing and nature can provide all that if we work collaboratively. For too long the approach has been fragmented and that has to end today if we have any chance of achieving climate mitigation. Achieving Food safety is rather is a complex process of interaction between the physical input - output relations of the food system and the social and economic milieu of the national economy in a dynamic equilibrium. Food quality standards planning and sanitary & phytosanitary development are strategic planning exercise to assess the future potential of the food sector and achieve accelerated growth through judicious management of quality and sanitary & phytosanitary standards.

Welcome to the e-consultation session about Food Safety, Loss, and Waste! I am looking forward to hearing from everyone. I would like to encourage you to help us identify any current research we may have missed related to these two topics. We know food safety issue and loss issues are complex, as they can occur across various segments of the value chain. Regarding food safety, does anyone have suggestions on what evidence needs to be generated to establish a link between food safety and nutrition and reduce food safety issues at different stages of food production? 

Johanna, on food safety, something should be done on fish preservation, some non edible chemicals are used to attain long shelf life of fish on the market, research should cover on the preservatives available and how affordable are they to those in need of them, the other area of focus should be the use of chemicals in enhencing the rippening of bananas and tomatoes, are the consumers safe with these chemicals used? 

Extremely good questions and potential areas of research to consider. One thing we will try to expand on and emphasize further in the review is food safety issues related to fish and fish products. If you are aware of any current research in that realm, please do contact us. We coulnd't find much, which is indicative of how more research is needed regarding this topic.

Greetings Mgudugudu, do you have some specific information on the chemicals that are being improperly used?  I know that unintentional contamination of off-shore fisheries ocurrs from agricultural runoff and industrial pollution, but I do not know much about intentional use of non-edible chemicals.  Can you direct me to some resources on this issue?

Hi Thoric, If I may jump in here, the use of formlin in fish value chains is a common example that comes to mind. Please see the link to a reference on the topic. This is the first resource that I came across after a quick search, though there are likely other examples as well...

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/ijcs.12238

 

Good Morning. I am COP for the FTF Business Drivers for Food Safety Project, and would welcome hearing anyone's experience with building the capacities of micro, small, or medium-sized food enterprises to implement food safety practices or technologies. 

Hi everyone:

Farm Radio International is not expert in either post harvest losses or food safety but we have been instrumental in several projects where post harvest -- usually on-farm storage -- was  focus. What we do know is that farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa care about post harvest losses and radio has proven a great tool to get the information they need. But the real problem is identifying the best practices that take into account real farm family constraints. For example, the PICS bags storage system from Perdue may hold great promise but the impacts of cost, ease of use and other constraints must be measured and farmers listened to.

Further along the value chain there needs to be study in my view. For example what is the data on aflatoxin increases in ground nuts after they leave the farm? Is it significant or is the farm where all the focus should be? Is a product like Aflsafe from IITA, already registered in several countries, the optimum way to deal with Aflatoxin?

Cheers

David

Hi David great insights/questions! Agreed, farmers want to reduce loss and produce high quality foods. Much of the aflatoxin research has been focused on farm level practices, while we know that once they leave the farm they remain susceptible to contamination if storage environments are inadequate. In the review we includes a section about food safety issues in the marketplace. I agree that going forward we should aim to gain a better understanding of what can be done for aflatoxin prevention beyond the farm to make sure that investments made by farmers to prevent aflatoxin (e.g. AflaSafe, hermetic bags, adequate drying) pay off. 

Hi Johanna and others participating

One thing that might be of interest to researchers is the Farm Radio International Interactive Digital Audience Response Platform (Called Uliza, the Swahili for Listen). We use it in all our projects to poll listeners, usually farmers and their families to test knowledge and also (as we did with PICS bags in Tanzania) to learn about farmer experience.

Cheers

David

Good evening all! I'm happy to share with you the link below. https://benefitethiopia.org/2019/09/16/food-safety-and-quality-in-poultry-sector-of-ethiopia-case-of-benefit-entag/. It's about food safety and quality in poultry sector of Ethiopia, case of BENEFIT ENTAG and I hope you will get a research idea from it. 

Thanks for this Selamawit! I'll be in Ethiopia the first week of December to attend the Second International Conference of the Ethiopian Society of Post Harvest  Management. If you are available, I'd be happy to meet and learn more about your experience in this important sector. 

You are most welcome and thank you also for the information about the post harvest managment conference. Which day does the conference take place and where? 

The conference is Friday and Saturday, Dec 6 and 7, and will be held at the Ethiopia Institute of Agricultural Research in Addis. 

Thanks again for the information! I will try to attend. In case if I can't attend the conference because of another committment, you can contact me by selamawit.benefit@gmail.com.

As mentioned in the webinar my main concern with food safety is the administrative cost of monitoring and enforcing. My prime example is the Tamric contamination in Kerns County, CA some 20 years ago. There the USDA was able to trace the problem back to Kerns County in 24 hour and to individual farmers in 48. However, we operate by the 40 ft tractor-trailer loads, and this is feasible. However, you need note that administrative costs are more associated with people you need to contact than area. Thus what was possible in Kerns CO would be financiallhy prohibitive in most developing countries.

This is further complicated by limited tax base in most developing countries that severely restricts what host government can do to enforce food saftey. You really have to think of most host governments as being financially stalled with no taxes no services. You also have to worry about civil officers looking for opportunities to earn some informal income that could come from accepting gratiduty to over look inspections. We have to be careful not to encourage this. Please review the webpages:

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/financially-suppressed-economy-2/ 

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/financially-stalled-governments/

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/informal-income-opportunities-seed-fertilizer-voucher-program-of-afghanistan/ 

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/impact-of-financially-stalled-government-limited-variety-improvement-seed-certification/ 

Yes, cost is an issue for sure. It's a challenge to find a cost-effective way of moving the needle forward enough to make a positive impact when the budgets are moderate. We are focused on improving practices at the enterprise level, but the challenge is finding the right market incentives that make sense to them and their business model. Regulation and enforcement can be drivers for them to upgrade practices, but in most environments where we work, those are just not there - or if they are, they can be abused by rent-seeking government officers. 

I fear it will remain "buyer beware" for the foreseeable future.

Hello all.  Bonnie here from GAIN.

I would like to turn to a potential research agenda focusing on consumers.  Three thoughts from GAIN...

  • Safety, or safety plus quality needs to be communicated or be visible to consumers so they can make the right choices at point of purchase. For many low income consumers  - who predominantly source foods from informal markets  - changing behaviors using effective labelling is of limited use.  Many foods are sold loose.  Do we know anything about other visual cues that have been effective at the point of sale and preferably in informal markets?
  • As Russ points out, the vendor is a critical actor who directly interfaces with the consumer, but the cost associated with safety is not an easy sell from a business model perspective.  Does anyone have experience vendors being the drivers of safe food?   Will marketing safe food drive business to engage in safety?  Actual case studies appreciated.
  • We need compelling propositions for low income consumers as well as for the vendors serving nutritionally vulnerable populations. A clear research agenda would be to develop and test these consumer propositions in informal market contexts.  

Looking forward to hearing from the group.

Hi Bonnie, all great insights, especially regarding consumers and point of purchase opportunities to improve food safety. 

Really appreciate all the food safety comments/questions. Keep them coming! Now, in terms of food loss, there is significant research gap around the mitigation of post-harvest loss, particularly of high value/nutrient dense crops (e.g. fruits and vegetables). Are there any advancements in technologies that help minimize food loss and mitigate the impact that loss and waste is having on the availability of nutritious foods, at the population or household level?

Hi Johanna,

At GAIN, as part of our “Post-Harvest Loss Alliance for Nutrition” program in Indonesia, we ran a Business Innovation Challenge for loss-reduction solutions in the fish value chain. And local companies had some pretty great ideas! The winners included a re-freezable ice packs, a motorbike-mountable fish storage and display unit for last-mile sellers, and a solar-powered cooler. Finding ways to engage local businesses to develop these solutions--and perhaps even more critically, to affordably scale them--is critical.

Wonderful to hear about these locally-designed innovations! Do you know of any attempts to scale-up these (or similar) types of innovations?

on the dry good side including grains and more nutritious grain legumes a good thresher can increase the recovered grain or benas as well if well adjusted provide a cleaner chaff free product that should demand a 10% bonus when marketed. These benefits can easily cover the cost of contracting for the threshing. The soybean lab is working on this.

Your question was on food loss, but in terms of improving the detection of food pathogens we are working with the University of Arizona to field test a new iPhone-based technology for detection purposes. Exciting stuff!  The idea is to reduce the time and cost of food safety testing in field environments and would be of tremendous help to government regulators as well as private sector food entrpreneurs who are motivated to improve food hygiene in their businesses.  Please see:  Researchers develop method to detect low levels of norovirus.

Focusing on technologies and loss and waste...

Great that safety and loss and waste have been combined here.  They are very much linked.   There appears to be a lot of excitement and investment in cost effective technologies to reduce loss and waste and food safety needs to be front and center in the development and testing of those technologies.  Do not harm with new technology.  GAIN has been working to reduce the loss and waste of nutritious foods through better packaging and crating, but we are also very concerned about re-cycling contamination as containers (crates v baskets) get re-used for a long period of time.  While we are looking into this, it would be great for participants to share studies they are aware of or rapid testing techniquesfor contaminants (microbial, physical, chemical or allergens) that would work in informal market settings.  Thank you. 

Good morning and thank you for the leading this important discussion. At GAIN, we're concerned about the high post harvest losses of nutritious foods and food safety. We've been working with small and medium sized businesses to reduce loss and improve food safety post-farm gate (transporters, aggregators, processors, etc.) and we've had a lot of success by promoting the adoption of reusable plastic crates (RPCs). Just through the adoption of RPCs, businesses have said they've seen up to 25-30% reduction of loss in tomatoes in Nigeria. Additionally, because the crates can be cleaned, they can help reduce food safety hazards. Dr Lisa Kitinoja at the Postharvest Education Foundation has done a lot of reseach on the benefits of RPCs and has a great cost-benefit analysis tool that be can used with businesses to show how using crates also help businesses to save money. Cold chain technologies can also help reduce loss of perishable foods and improve food safety but require significant investments by business.

I think there are still significant gaps in evidence around where food loss of nutritious foods and food safety hazards are ocurring along the supply chain, particularly post-farm gate. We need to ensure that any intervention or technology is supported by busineses or it won't be sustainable. Interested to know from everyone if there are there other technologies or practices that reduce loss and improve food safety that also make sense to businesses working along supply chains in informal markets? Thank you!

I very much appreciate the idea of reuseable, stackable plastic crates, but how far can the move up or down the value chain. They are expensive and if moves too farm from the owner can easily get lost. Look at what is happening the Talid Thai wholesale market outside of Bangkok. If they cannot move you are stuck with some massive repacking and potential spoilage losses.

We often talk about food safety hazards in isolation and in typical academic fashion, trying to reduce the scope of research to illicit a statistically causal inference. Unfortunately, for many consumers in poorly regulated markets, they are exposed to multiple food safety hazards at the same time, with already vulnerable populations bearing the onus of risk. Therefore, while there is much discussion, as an example, of the impacts of either Aflatoxins or Fumonisins on child growth outcomes, the reality is that both of these mycotoxins often exist in combination and create a greater risk of chronic toxicity in a synergistic manner, in concert with with other potential hazards including microbial and chemical.

Private sector approaches to food safety often prioritize perceptions of safety over actual safety because it is so hard to discern safe food from their unsafe counterparts (generally speaking) in packaged or loose food markets. Therefore, it is important to look at way that consumers may protect themselves. There is some evidence to suggest that dietary diversity may play a role in mediating the impacts of exposure to food born hazards1. Similarly, I would be interested to understand the role of the human microbiome in further mediating the impacts of food born hazards2

1.           Wu, F., Groopman, J. D. & Pestka, J. J. Public Health Impacts of Foodborne Mycotoxins. Annu. Rev. Food Sci. Technol. 5, 351–372 (2014).

2.           Gratz, S. et al. Lactobacillus rhamnosus strain GG modulates intestinal absorption, fecal excretion, and toxicity of aflatoxin B(1) in rats. Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 72, 7398–400 (2006).

sorry, wrong citation from Wu. It should be:

Wu, F., Mitchell, N. J., Male, D. & Kensler, T. W. Reduced foodborne Toxin exposure is a benefit of improving dietary diversity. Toxicol. Sci. 141, 329–334 (2014). 

I'd like to add to Bryan's point here from our perspective at the Peanut Innovation Lab (formerly Peanut & Mycotoxin IL). We advocated to drop aflatoxin from our name (though we continue to do research aiming to reduce contamination) b/c peanuts get stradled with negative perceptions by the growing awareness of aflatoxin risk. But where does the majority of aflatoxin come from in most people's diets? The few grams of peanuts they eat or the hundreds of grams of maize?... Or, is the real risk in microbial contamination with more drastic and immediate health implications? Meanwhile peanut, the most widely grown legume in the world and excellent source of plant-based protein and healthy fats, gets a bad reputation. We've seen partners' products pulled from the shelves due to poorly reported press about aflatoxin. Yes, consumers need education, but I'd like to see some level of risk priortization that's based on evidence.

Another important area for more research within this space is understanding the extent to which the cues consumers use to assess whether food is safe (e.g., it being wrapped in plastic, or sold by a vendor with clean clothes) actually align to reduced food safety risks.  When they try to protect themselves, which signals are they looking at? And are they interepreting those signals right?

I think while we assume food is safe when we go to the market, most people in developing countris assume it is not safe and make adjustments in the preparation. I think back home in VN we used to soak all fresh vegetables in Potassium Permagnate to kill any surface contamination. How common it that is other areas?

another part of this that has not been mentioned is pesticide residue. I had a couple MSc students at AIT outside Bangkok look into this for thier thesis. Got some very interesting if not disturbing result some comeing from Bhpol near the massive Union Carbide deseaster some years ago. I don't have this on a webpage but do have it as an extract from the book. be happy to provide it to anyone interested.

I very much agree with you on the point Bryan - we need to get into the field, try innovative approaches or technologies, and see if they make sense to the value-chain actors. Co-creating solutions with those stakeholders from the beginning is an even better approach in my view. 

I think that is a great point, Stella! I think there would be agreater connection between signals and risk for acute microbial hazards than for chemical and other chronic hazards where the connection between signals and risk and risk are likely to be muted. Hopefully as we continue the discussion of food safety we can be sure to differentiate the two....

There is also a policy research agenda around food safety legislation, regulation, compliance and enforcement.  Are there models out there that have worked?   Agencies that have been put in place to oversee food safety?  Acts that have been put in place?  Guidelines for complaince and enforcement?  

IFPRI has some new work in this area...  Food safety in low and middle-income countries: The evidence through an economic lens. Vivian Hoffmann, Christine Moser, Alexander E. Saak. World development. 2019. http://www.ifpri.org/publication/food-safety-low-and-middle-income-countries-evidence-through-economic-lens.  

Seems like this area is wide open for more evidence.

In some States, Street Food vending has been signed into law for a while. And That is a good thing, since it helps with food security for many low income neighborhoods and families However we allknow there are not enough inspectors to assure food safety of the practices employed by the vendors.  And we have no clue how much training on Food Safety is provided to these folks who vend.  What solutions do you see and how to implement these because this is an issue which can cause problems if not contained.

Thanks to all of our participants for sharing their thoughts and experiences with us. As a reminder, discussion will continue through next Monday November 18th. Please join us for the next discussion on this topic today, November 14,  from 10:00 PM-12:00 AM EST (UCT 3:00-5:00) moderated by Ashish Pokharel, Research Manager, Feed the Future Nutrition Innovation Lab. For the full schedule of events, check out our e-consultation home

I recently knew about FTF nutrition lab's work in  various parts of Nepal. Are there any concrete research on aflatoxin contamination on maize  in mid hills of  Nepal? Is there any program to address this issue through crop research and dissemination ?

What are the gaps in terms of information and level of awareness on food safety in low resources settings?  Additionally, It would be great to learn of reliable sources or websites that people can turn to for information on food safety.  

Hi Fatima, The USAID Food safety Innovation Lab at Purdue University might be a good place to start. Here is a link  https://ag.purdue.edu/ipia/Pages/Food-Safety-Innovation-Lab.aspx

Hi Ramesh, You can be on lookout for publications from the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Nutrition at https://www.nutritioninnovationlab.org/publications and Feed the Fturue Innovation lab for Post Harvest Loss Reduction at https://www.k-state.edu/phl/what-we-do/publications-and-data.html . Both of these Labs have carried out aflatoxin research in Nepal. 

There are many potential food safety hazards, and deciding which to tackle is challenging. THE WHO Foodborne Epidemiology Reference Group has published comprehensive estimates of the burden of fooborne disease that may support evidence-based decision making. All information is available through this web page: https://collections.plos.org/ferg2015. Globally, diarrheal disease pathogens cause the greatest burden, but in all regions, there are specific hazards that are of high significance including Taenia solium, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, cyanide from cassava and fishorne trematodes.

Arie, thank you for sharing the link to some excellent resources from WHO on foodborne pathogenic and chemical hazards! It will be very useful to know the burden of foodborne illness on population across various settings 

Welcome to the second e-consultation session about Food Safety, Loss, and Waste! I am Ashish Pokharel and I  look forward to your thoughts on research we may have missed related to these two topics.We have had a very good discussion session so far. Looking forward to hearing more insights from you. We all know how investments in post-harvest loss reduction could be a quick impact intervention for enhancing food security and thus improving nutrition. How can advancements in technologies help minimize food loss and mitigate the impact that loss and waste is having on the availability of nutritious foods, at the population or household level?

Do we know how much of a barrier the concern about food safety and loss is in families achieving a diverse diet?  In some research I did for the SPRING project in Guatemala, we found that lack of cool/cold storage at home was the main reason families could consume animal source foods only on market day and fruits and vegetables only for a couple of days after before they spoiled.  Few people have access to markets more than once a week, many people  in remote areas went only monthly.

Thank you for the excellent research question Judiann! Further reserach is needed on whether concern about food loss and waste (especially among poorer households) is a barrier in acheiving a diverse diet. 

Generalised lack of storage facilities, permanently epileptic electricity supply system, absence of ready markets for agricultural products, grossly inadequate processing facilities for agricultural products, poor transport system for agricultural produce and low pricing system for food/agricultural products have contributed to inadequate food safety, food loss and waste across Nigeria.

Thank you Dr. Adirieje for your thoughts and comments. Will it be possible to share any resources that you have on food safety, loss and waste issue in Nigeria? 

Thank you everybody for the discussion so far. Your insights on further evidence needed to establish a link between food safety and nutrition will be appreciated. 

Enteric infections in the ansence of diarrhea are increasingly linked to environmental enteric dysfunction and stunting. Pathogens involved have human or livestock reservoirs and food is likely to be an important vehicle but currently unquantified. Focus is on WASH interventions but direct exposure to livestock feces or food contamination (direct or indirect) is more diffiocutl to quantify, yet potentially very important. Look for example at the great work from Chrisine Moe's group at Emory: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28722599.

Research possibilities in nutraceuticals and natural dye extraction from fruit wastes ..for example lycopene from tomato peel, dye from pomegranate peel 

I think there is room for research and extension work for food handling and harvest to avoid losses. Affordable technologies are needed for harvesting to avoid losses and for storage to avoid contaminations and loss of nutrients.

Here is an example for needs for olive harvesting : https://postharvestinstitute.illinois.edu/global-expertise-alaoui/

Research for development and development efforts to improve nutrition are disproportionately invested in health, and on the agriculture side on increased productivity. However, gains in nutritional status from these investments can fall far short of their potential due to post-harvest loss issues. Between harvest and consumption, nutrient content and food safety issues related to nutrition can become significant challenges to achieving nutritional security. Nutrient content is dramatically reduced. Accumulation of harmful fungal secondary metabolites (mycotoxins) have adverse effects on human (and livestock) health. Acute poisoning can lead to death. Chronic exposure can cause cancer (mycotoxins such as aflatoxin are a potent carcinogen), and has been associated with negative birth outcomes, immunosuppression, stunting of children’s development. An additional effect of these toxins, that accumulate due to poor post-harvest practices, is blocking nutrient uptake; programs designed to deliver nutritious diets could fail due to this post-harvest food safety issue. Food safety is a key part of food and nutritional security.

Beyond having nutritious and safe food, efforts to reduce post-harvest losses with proper drying, storage and processing can dramatically reduce the hunger season. Since approximately 1/3 or more of food in developing countries is lost after harvest, and many smallholder farming families and consumers rely on their harvest to stretch to the next, hopefully successful harvest, failing to address postharvest loss reduces food security and resilience.

Addressing postharvest losses through research for development is downstream toward scaling and uptake, with short-term benefits readily achievable. Drying and storage innovation packages are available and moving towards/being scaled in Feed the Future countries. Working with research and scaling partners in the national system, including government and academia, our program and others are achieving successes in inclusively addressing postharvest losses, including those related to nutrition. However, current investments do not cover the breadth of the diverse landscape of nutrition-related value chains and entry points across these countries. Sustained and expanded investment into research around post-harvest losses (including drying, storage and processing) to improve nutrition is still needed to address the research gaps identified in the study Dr Trevino presented, which have also been identified by others. Value chain entry points can be identified for nutrition-targeted interventions, which preserve nutritional content and safeguard food safety, in a way that involves and benefits women (who do the majority of postharvest activities) and youth, and involves the private sector. 

Characterizing and effectively resolving post-harvest issues related to nutrition benefits from agriculture-health collaborations, such as the one between PHLIL and NIL in Nepal. We look forward to further working to address nutritional security, including food safety issues, in multidisciplinary efforts.