AFRICA – Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), a public-private partnership that promotes food safety, has called for more investments into the domestic food safety across African countries in order to curb food-borne diseases.
According to a report by GFSP, investments in the African countries should be geared towards promoting food safety for its local consumers with greater emphasis on information and awareness on higher safety standards.
The report, based on an analysis conducted on more than 500 projects and activities in Africa since 2010, reveals that, a majority projects focused on food safety for exports with less emphases on domestic consumptions.
Although exports contribute significantly to African economics, the report says the continent suffers the world’s worst levels of food safety, causing human capital losses of an estimated US$16.7 billion annually.
Additionally, according to the report, more than half of donor-funded food safety initiatives in the continent are focused on overseas markets, with less than half on domestic consumers.
Less than 5% of donor investments addressed the specific health risks, such as Salmonella and E.coli that local consumers are exposed to while sourcing food especially from informal food markets.
Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that foodborne illnesses result into an estimated 137,000 deaths per year.
According to the report by GFSP, the annual donor investment in food safety is more than 300 times less than the productivity losses caused by foodborne illness.
Based on the findings, GFSP advocated for more investment into public health programmes in the report.
Juergen Voegele Senior Director for Food and Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank – which hosts GFSP – highlighted that food safety remains a key pillar to the success of Africa’s agriculture-led development.
“With growing populations and changing diets, now is the time to take stock of the current food safety landscape in Africa and for new efforts to address old challenges,” he added.
Recommendation by the GFSP
According to the report, developing countries should adopt public health-focused investment programmes, raise awareness and encourage consumer demand for higher food safety standards.
Furthermore the report by GFSP proposes; a better approach to address the health of domestic consumers dependent on informal markets; building capacity for well-governed, evidence- and risk-based food safety systems; and harnessing the current marketplace drivers of progress on food safety.
“Our hope is that this report will result in a greater prioritization of investments in food safety for African consumers, better alignment of development support to food safety, and a sharper focus on lifting the public health burden of foodborne disease in sub-Saharan Africa”, said Louise Scura, Chair of the GFSP governing committee.
The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and the African Development Bank, as part of partner authors for the report, highlighted environmental conditions, food markets, physical infrastructure and governance as major factors affecting food safety in the region.