*By Prof. Robinson H. Mdegela , Dr Elibariki Mwakapeje & Stella Kimambo
In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV) 2021 campaign to encourage people to consume a minimum of 400 grams of fruits and vegetables per day.
The IYFV 2021 provided a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the critical role of fruits and vegetables in human nutrition, food security and health, and as well in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDSs).
As a result, the value of fruits and vegetables in nutritious and healthy diets is recognized.
Foodborne outbreaks linked to the consumption of leafy greens, tomatoes, sprouts and green peppers are becoming more common, demonstrating that eating contaminated fruits and vegetables is a significant source of foodborne disease.
Foodborne diseases affect one in ten people worldwide each year.
To meet the growing demand for vegetables and fruits in the urban and peri-urban areas, low-quality water and manure are increasingly being used to support their production and marketing from farm to fork.
Recent studies conducted by FAO in collaboration with the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA) in Dar es Salaam, Morogoro and Dodoma releaved contamination of all samples of vegetables and fruits collected at farm and markets, including but not limited to bacteria of Escherichia coli, Klebsiella spp, and Salmonella spp; these pathogens were multi-drug resistant (MDR) to at least three antimicrobials.
Although fruits and vegetables are not routinely treated with antimicrobials, the findings suggest that the fresh vegetables and fruits are contaminated from the environment, specifically through use of untreated manure and contaminated water, as well as through unsanitary produce handling at the markets.
In addition to education, a multiple-barrier approach should be promoted to improve the protection against contaminants that commonly occur at various nodes along the supply chain from farm to fork.
Adopting effective food safety behaviors when growing and handling fruits and vegetables will have an impact on overall hygienic behaviors, particularly achieving Zero Hunger (SDG 2) .
Harnessing a One Health approach with food systems related to vegetables and fruits will inspire actions to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks.
Authors: Department of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health; Sokoine University of Agriculture; National Consultant for Antimicrobial Resistance, Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases and Food Security and Nutrition Specialist - FAO Tanzania