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

The Future of Food Safety

This post was written by Kelley Cormier and Lee Gross with the Food Safety Network.

“You cannot have food security without food safety.” This was the declaration of the first ever International Food Safety Conference held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, February 12-13. The conference, hosted by the African Union, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Health Organization and World Trade Organization brought together government officials, representatives of international and regional intergovernmental organizations and participants from civil society from around the world. This follows the recent UN declaration for a World Food Safety Day on June 7.

The conference offered a forum for a global experience exchange on efforts made by governments and other stakeholders to advance food safety and highlighted the central role that food safety plays in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the CEO of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, said that “this is a tremendous opportunity in an area that has been neglected for a long time,” and summarized key takeaways:

  • The economic costs are high
  • We need investments in local food markets to protect consumers and improve nutrition along with trade
  • A multi-sectoral approach is required
  • The effects of climate change need to factor into plans for sustainable food systems
  • The role of digital technologies cannot be understated, but carries risks
  • Empowering consumers is critical through partnerships between the public and private sectors.

As highlighted by the recent World Bank report, unsafe food undermines food and nutritional security, human development, the broader food economy and international trade. The total productivity loss associated with foodborne disease in low- and middle-income countries is estimated at $95.2 billion per year. In Africa, foodborne disease is particularly harmful, claiming 137,000 lives a year and causing 91 million cases of sickness, according to the World Health Organization. The heaviest burden falls on children under the age of five.

Both the conference and associated side events echoed messages from a new report from the Global Food Safety Partnership: “It is time for greater investment and a strategic, risk-based approach that targets the health of African consumers and harnesses consumer awareness and market forces to drive progress on food safety. Food safety is the next frontier of food and nutrition security in Sub-Saharan Africa. More broadly, food safety also undermines economic growth and trade objectives.”

As the international dialogue on food safety moves next to a conference April 23-24 in Geneva, Switzerland, conference participants and the world must move forward to take collective action to evaluate and enhance the role that food safety plays in efforts to boost agricultural production, food security, nutrition and trade.

Under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government is leading the way by supporting a number of initiatives to help build food safety capacity globally such as the Food Safety Network, Enabling Environment for Food Security, The Global Food Safety Partnership, and the Standards and Trade Development Facility.

How is food safety addressed in your food security work? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below.