Ending hunger is about all people having access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round, as such we cannot have food security, without food safety.
When food is not safe, children cannot learn, adults cannot work. Human development cannot take place. Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health.
Food safety has a direct impact on people’s health and nutritional intake. It plays a critical role in assuring 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.
In a world where the food supply chain has become more complex, any adverse food safety incident may have global negative effects on public health, trade and the economy. Improving food safety therefore contributes positively to trade, employment and poverty alleviation.
When countries strengthen their regulatory, scientific and technological capacities to ensure that food is safe and of the expected quality throughout the food chain, they move towards more sustainable patterns of food production and consumption.
Today, the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization plays the leading role in setting international food standards to protect the health of consumers and in ensuring fair practices in the food trade. Also, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization play an important role in capacity-building for countries to implement food safety systems.
Here in Tanzania FAO’s technical expertise in food safety has been deployed in supporting the country to access critical global financing in addressing aflatoxins. This is coupled with strengthening national and local government capacities in dealing with the threat posed by aflatoxins through ensuring proper postharvest storage to avoid contamination.
As part of the UN Joint programme in collaboration with SIDA, FAO is providing technical support for the review of the national plant protection regulatory framework and strengthening the capacity of the Government to provide phytosanitary and quarantine services in order to avert the threat posed by these pests and diseases on agriculture and food chains.
Through the Fleming Fund under Department of Health of the Government of the United Kingdom, FAO has been working with the Government of Tanzania to raise awareness and put up structures for proper management and use of antimicrobials in the food and agriculture sectors namely; livestock keeping, crop production, fisheries and aquaculture to ensure food safety.
In addition, FAO is currently providing technical support to the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children through a two-year project – ‘Advancing Healthy Street Food Incentives’ to boost the safety and nutritional balance of street food in Dar es Salaam.
The project raises awareness to street food vendors on safety standards, businesses formalization and the need to strike nutritional balance in their food for public health.
Implementing a “One Health” approach greatly improves food safety as the health of people is connected to the health of animals and the environment. Pathogens transmissible from animals to humans through direct contact or through food, water, and the environment have an impact on public health and socio-economic well-being. Together governments, academia, experts, non-governmental and international organizations can combat food safety risks.
Everyone has the right to safe, nutritious and sufficient food. The World Food Safety day should be an opportunity to strengthen our efforts to ensure that the food we eat is safe from production level to the folk. Everybody along the food chain is responsible for food safety. It is time to act now!
*The author is the FAO Representative to Tanzania.