Food Safety: March Spotlight Needs Year-Round Attention
The World Health Organization found that foodborne disease causes a global health burden similar to that of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria. Nearly all of this burden falls on poor countries (98 percent) and most is due to consumption of meat, milk, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables. These are the very foods with greatest potential to increase dietary diversity and fight under- and over-nutrition. As we consider agricultural development and ways to improve the nutritional status of people around the world, we must remember that it’s not enough to make sure people have access to nutritious food: the food must also be safe.
The CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has made food safety one of its five research flagships. Through this program, we focus on:
- Managing risks for fresh foods sold in informal markets, which are responsible for the greatest health burden but also essential to the livelihoods of billions, many of them women. Researchers at the International Livestock Research Institute lead our work in this area.
- Mitigating the risks of aflatoxins, a “silent threat” found in key crops and milk in tropical and sub-tropical regions, which not only carry a health risk but also an economic one. Researchers at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture have developed a biocontrol product called Aflasafe® and are working with partners across Africa to bring it to scale.
- Generating high-quality evidence on the risks of and potential solutions for the challenges and threats stemming from foodborne diseases.
Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) has been developing evidence syntheses for and with major players such as BMGF, DFID, USAID, FAO and World Bank. In 2017, A4NH cohosted a workshop on targeting food safety investments in low and middle-income countries. A central theme emerging from that workshop echoes throughout our work: collaboration and knowledge-sharing will be key in addressing food safety challenges, and this collaboration must include the formal and informal markets, policymakers, researchers, and public and private sectors. Working together, we can solve problems and improve both the nutrition and health of people throughout the world.
Delia Grace is Program Leader for Animal and Human Health at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and leads the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health's (A4NH) Flagship Program on Food Safety.