Interview Cruncher – Talking Food Safety

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Convened by GAIN and EatSafe

It is very simple: Food safety is an integral part of food and nutrition security. Accessing safe food ensures that consumers can benefit from the nutritional values of their food.

In traditional markets, the majority of consumers buy nutrient-dense foods, such as animal-source foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, in informal markets with limited infrastructure to manage and control pathogens. The logical consequence: unsafe foods are bought and consumed, inevitably leading to foodborne illnesses and outbreaks which perpetuate malnutrition, hunger and ultimately poverty.

Back in 2015, the WHO estimated 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses and 420,000 deaths worldwide. In 2018, the World Bank attributed related losses in productivity and medical expenses of $110bn per annum. The caveat: there is no current and reliable international data or research that provides insights about the impact of foodborne illnesses in LMICs, which has been further amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic-related measures impacting food supply and purchasing.

Thus, there is a lack of data-driven and evidence-based guidance for local regulators and authorities to apply existing or implement a binding regulatory and surveillance framework for informal markets. As a result, vendors don’t comply with even basic food safety measures offering and selling produce to consumers who are hardly able to demand for or select safe food on the market.