More than 100,000 people die from unsafe food and lack of investment in food safety in Sub-Saharan Africa every year, according to a report released this week.
The report, published by Global Food Safety Partnership, found that improvements to the food system in Africa are essential in ensuring the country’s long-term well-being, but that currently little effort is being made to limit cases of foodborne illness.
“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,” Juergen Voegele, senior director for food and agriculture global practice at the World Bank, said.
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The report analyzed more than 500 projects and activities since 2010. It found that when it came to food safety, the emphasis was primarily on exported goods, which is an obvious issue for those buying their food domestically.
Unsafe food caused about 137,000 deaths and 91 million cases of illness per year, according to data from the World Health Organization in 2015.
The bulk of these illnesses are caused by bacterial and viral infections like salmonella and parasites like tapeworms. Salmonella kills 32,000 people in Africa every year.
Most consumers in Sub-Saharan Africa buy from informal markets, most of which are unregulated and do not have sufficient sanitation and safety standards.
The report argues that most foodborne illness affects those who depend on these markets. It is predicted that informal markets will supply up to 70% of food by 2040, according to the Telegraph.
But it also outlines that the formal food market is set to expand at the rate of a medium-sized food-processing and agribusiness, the Telegraph noted.
“Africa’s food safety challenge will only intensify as its food system matures, supply chains lengthen, and Africans have access to more of the nutritious meat, dairy products, fruits and vegetables that are needed for good health but are more vulnerable to food safety hazards than traditional staples of African diets,” the report reads.
This means that regulation will be especially important if the country is to avoid mass-scale food-related health crises, like the Listeria outbreak caused by process meats in South Africa.
“The development community is beginning to accept that there will be no food security and achievement of development goals without food safety,” Louise Scura, chair of the Global Food Safety Partnership governing committee, said.
Essentially, it will be difficult to achieve Global Goal 3 on good health and well-being for all if the vast majority of an entire continent is falling victim to food-related illnesses, resulting in a huge number of deaths.
The report highlights the need to raise awareness around food safety standards in Sub-Saharan Africa, while calling for investment in public health programs. The report also outlines the importance of encouraging African consumers to demand better food safety.