Food is the basic requirement for getting energy, health and our wellbeing. The safety of food is being taken for granted, whether safe or not but in an increasingly complex and interconnected world where food value chains are growing longer, standards and regulations are that much more important in keeping us safe. The way in which food is produced, stored, handled and consumed chiefly affects the safety of our food. Complying with global food standards, establishing effective regulatory food control systems, including emergency preparedness and response, providing access to clean water, applying good agriculture practices (terrestrial, aquatic, livestock, horticulture), strengthening the use of food safety management systems by food business operators, and building capacities of consumers to make healthy food choices are some ways in which governments, international organisations, scientists, the private sector and civil society can work to ensure food safety,” the health organisation noted.
“Food safety is everyone’s business,’’ says the World Health Organisation (WHO) which has released figures that estimate 600 million cases of food-borne diseases occur annually worldwide. This translates into one in 10 people falling ill after eating contaminated food. Safety of food is an increasing threat to human health. Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the food-borne disease burden with 1,25,000 deaths every year, (WHO). A note issued by the organisation said the first-ever World Food Safety Day was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in December 2018 and this year it would be celebrated on June 7 with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) facilitating member-States’ effort to celebrate it. Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. Quality and Food Safety have become competitive edge in the global market for food products. For the overall development of the food-processing sector in the country, various indicators of Total Quality Management (TQM) such as quality control, quality system and quality assurance should operate in a horizontal manner. Apart from this, in the interest of consumer safety and public health, there is a need to ensure that the quality food products manufactured and sold in the market meets the stringent parameters as prescribed by the Global and National Food Regulatory Authorities.
The SDGs cover a much broader set of topics than the MDGs. Notably the health goal explicitly covers reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health, infectious diseases, non-communicable diseases, mental health, road traffic injuries, environmental health consequences and health systems strengthening. However, both the SDG and the related WHO Health Statistics make little mention of Food Borne Diseases, this is in contrast to malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and water associated disease which are covered in great depth in the papers and targets. The lack of salience in Food Borne Diseases could be because the thinking and planning of SDGs reflects several years of work, much of which happened before the publication of the first global assessment of the burden of FBD. However, it also reflects a general low awareness of the importance of food safety among public health professionals and development actors. Moreover, because FBD is an inter-sectoral problem, occurring at the interface of health, agriculture, and industry, it may be systematically under-estimated. Building on the success of the MDGs, the SDGs set an unprecedentedly ambitious, broad, integrated, and inclusive set of goals for improving the well being of people and the planet. Stakeholders have overwhelmingly mobilized around the SDGs and any initiative for improving food safety. However, SDGs have been criticized for not reflecting effective prioritization, for spreading aid too thinly, for setting goals, which are not realizable, for being extremely expensive to monitor and for lacking coherence. At the same time, some evaluations find that progress is meager (Globe-Scan 2017) and some goals are unattainable on present trajectories. A widely acknowledged strength of the SDGs is their emphasis on people, prosperity and the planet or social, economic, and environmental pillars of sustainability (HLPE 2016). However, the reach of goals means that interactions between groups of goals are inevitable. Food safety is the absence – or safe, acceptable levels– of hazards in food that may harm the health of consumers. Food safety has a critical role in ensuring that food stays safe at every stage of the food chain– from production to harvest, processing, storage, distribution, all the way to preparation and consumption.
As the world population continues to grow, much more effort and innovation will be urgently needed in order to sustainably increase agricultural production, improve the global supply chain, decrease food losses and waste, and ensure that all who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition have access to nutritious food. Many in the international community believe that it is possible to eradicate hunger within the next generation, and are working together to achieve this goal. World leaders at the 2012 Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) reaffirmed the right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food, consistent with the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger. The UN Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge launched at Rio+20 called on governments, civil society, faith communities, the private sector, and research institutions to unite to end hunger and eliminate the worst forms of malnutrition. The Zero Hunger Challenge has since garnered widespread support from many member States and other entities. It calls for:
Zero stunted children under the age of two
100% access to adequate food throughout the year
All food systems are sustainable
100% increase in smallholder productivity and income
Zero loss or waste of food
Sustainable Development Goal to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” (SDG-2) recognizes the inter linkages among supporting sustainable agriculture, empowering small farmers, promoting gender equality, ending rural poverty, ensuring healthy lifestyles, tackling climate change, and other issues addressed within the set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. Beyond adequate calories intake, proper nutrition has other dimensions that deserve attention, including micronutrient availability and healthy diets. Inadequate micronutrient intake of mothers and infants can have long-term developmental impacts. Unhealthy diets and lifestyles are closely linked to the growing incidence of non-communicable diseases in both developed and developing countries. While food safety has obvious direct links to SDGs, especially those focused on human wellbeing, it can also interact with other goals in complex ways. These we call un-intended consequences, as these are often not considered in the pursuit of attaining another desired goal. These unintended consequences have been neglected in the literature but there is some evidence that they their consequence is high, in some cases higher than direct effects of FBD. Much previous development interest focused on regional and international food trade as a pathway out of poverty and means to improving food security. In this context, addressing food safety is a way of increasing the benefits and reducing the risks of trade Without doubt, the greatest burden associated with FBD and the greatest possible interactions with SDGs is due to FBD resulting from food sold in the mass markets of developing countries. There is limited literature on domestic food safety regulation in developing countries shows that we do not yet have good models for standards and approaches that can work at scale to assure food safety where risks are pervasive, costs of compliance are high and enforcement capacity is weak (Grace and Unnevehr 2013). Given the very different farming systems and regulatory environments, the approaches used successfully in Europe cannot be directly applied to developing countries. Several food safety interventions have been tried and evaluated with little evidence for benefit or sustainability. Nonetheless, other initiatives show promise, and a smaller number have been able to demonstrate sustained and scalable benefits. There is a consensus that food safety is best managed by a ‘farm to fork’ or ‘boat to throat’ approach that tackles food safety along the value chain. There should also be multiple barriers (or redundancy) in the system so that if one barrier to contamination fails there are other opportunities to block contamination or decontaminate. Food safety risks are best assessed, managed and communicated using Risk Analysis principles and methods which have been well described by FSSAI, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), WHO, Codex Alimentarius Commission and others and are the basis of international trade under the auspices of the World Trade Organization.
Food Safety interventions at farm level: organizing producers in co-operatives or self-help groups thus making food safety capacity building easier; community-based or group certification to meet food safety standards; out-grower or contract schemes that include farmer training and support; farmer field schools and training in good agricultural practices and integrated pest management; technologies to reduce risk on farm.
Food Safety interventions along the value chain: Providing and upgrading infrastructure such as roads and electricity; technical innovations such as cooling devices and water disinfection; vertical integration so that firms can manage safety; traceability; good manufacturing processes (GMP) and approaches such as Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP).
Food Safety Interventions at retail: Modernizing retail; development of high-end niche domestic value chains; Training informal sector retailers and street sellers; training food handlers. These interventions can also have economic, equity and environmental benefits.
Food Safety interventions at consumer level: Education, information and leveraging consumer willingness to pay for food safety to support development of safer food chains.
The SDGs offers an opportunity to address the major challenges facing humanity in ways that will not make things worse in trying to make things better. Food safety is moving rapidly up the global agenda as information emerges on the high and multiple burdens of FBD and the many interactions with other societal goals such as gender equity, nutrition and clean water. Moreover, FBD occurs at the intersection of health and agriculture and it is likely that the current fragmented framework of health governance, and disconnections between agriculture, health and ecosystems results in systematic under-estimation of the problem of FBD and undermines its management. Greater collaboration among food, water and the health and nutrition sectors, in the design and financing of programs to address food safety can contribute to helping meet multiple SDGs while acting as a model for managing complex, inter sectoral problems.
The way in which food is produced, stored, handled and consumed affects the safety of our food. Complying with Global food standards, establishing effective regulatory food control systems including emergency preparedness and response, providing access to clean water, applying good agriculture practices (terrestrial, aquatic, livestock, horticulture), strengthening the use of food safety management systems by food business operators, and building capacities of consumers to make healthy food choices are some ways in which governments, international organizations, scientists, the private sector and civil society work to ensure food safety. Food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers and consumers. Everybody has a role to play from farm to table to ensure the food we consume is safe and will not cause damages to our health. Through World Food Safety Day, WHO pursues its efforts to mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases globally?