A systems approach to safer foods, from farm to fork

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 By Mushobozi Baitani

As we consider issues affecting the safety of foods we consume, it is prudent to start at the source, the farm.

In that case, the European Union (EU) has funded a program and partnered with FAO to cater for just that.

The program is titled “Strengthening Plant Health Services in Tanzania Enhanced Safety” and it includes a variety of viable solutions.

First, plant pest surveillance will be improved by providing digital solutions, unmanned aerial vehicles, and transportation to the plant health inspectors of the Tanzania Plant Health and Pesticide Authority (TPHPA).

Real time and robust data on spread and level of infestation of microbes and insects destroying and contaminating food will be available.

Pests’ management will be promoted through the use of integrated solutions such as traps, biopesticides and biocontrol agents.

This will reduce the use of chemical pesticides in the field, lowering the likelihood of exceeding the required minimum chemical residue levels.

As the food is harvested and transported from farms to warehouses, they will be met with standard operating procedures for inspection that have been upgraded to a whole other level.

Approximately 32 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for inspection will be updated and aligned to international standards, as will the officers’ capacity in this area.

The upgrade will include cutting-edge technology and structural rehabilitation. These laboratories will receive international accreditation as a result of the program.

Through these interventions, it is expected that the final consumer will receive safe foods, barring other incidents that may be caused by the consumers themselves, such as being unhygienic and improperly handling food at home.

However, systems for tracing food from consumer’s plate to the production site will be established through an upgrade of the Farmers Registration System and its integration to the Agriculture Trade and Market Information System (ATMIS), the main portal for agricultural consignments import and export data.

This will to work in synergy with the Food Location and Safety System (FLASS), which is being developed by FAO under the EU funded AGRI-CONNECT program. FLASS will monitor the safety of locally produced and consumed foods. The modules for these integrations are ready and will be released mid-2023.

As we commemorate World Food Safety Day, Keep in mind that the safer the food, the better the health!

FAO Plant Protection and Integrated Pest Management Specialist.