A4NH / Agri-Health / Animal Products / Consumption / Food Safety / FSZ / Human Health / ILRI / Nutrition / Opinion piece

Healthy foods must be nutritious, safe and fair–But what is good for the rich may be bad for the poor

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Pork joints in Uganda (photo credit: ILRI/Martin Heilmann, Freie Universitaet Berlin).

The following excerpts are taken from a guest commentary, Healthy foods must be nutritious, safe and fair, published on the Global Food for Thought blog of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on 10 Apr 2015. The authors are John McDermott, of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and director of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), and Delia Grace, of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where she leads a program on Food Safety and Zoonoses and the  ‘Agriculture Associated Diseases’ flagship of A4NH.

‘Food safety is a growing concern locally and globally. High-profile food scares in recent years, in rich and emerging countries, have raised awareness that healthy eating must be safe eating.

‘Unfortunately, the most nutritious foods are often the least safe. Vegetables and fruits are often grown with highly contaminated wastewater; when eaten raw, the risks are high. Livestock and fish products are common causes of foodborne illness, yet are also critical for children’s cognitive development and growth. . . .

‘In an increasingly globalized world, there are dramatic differences in food systems. Policymakers and the public often assume that one universal system should apply everywhere.

But what is good for the rich may be bad for the poor and vice versa: we argue that to provide nutritious, safe, and fair food to all, food safety systems must be tailored for different national and sub-national contexts.

Where trust is low, verification must be high. Effective standards will require greater transparency in the food system and would be greatly helped by inexpensive tests for direct verification of food safety. . . .

‘[R]egulations may paradoxically worsen food safety, as vendors are forced into more informal markets to avoid them (Grace et al., 2008).

‘This challenge has led to innovative approaches to planning and implementing food safety in informal markets such as the Safe Food, Fair Food program which we were involved in. This program focused on livelihood opportunities as well as food safety. For example, milk sold in the traditional sector in Kenya often did not meet microbial standards, but because it was consumed quickly or boiled, the risk of diseases was low. By marshaling evidence on the high economic benefits of the traditional milk sector as well as the low health risks, policymakers agreed to support this sector (Kaitibie et al., 2010).

. . . There will always be some hazards in foods, but where health risks are low, the nutritional and livelihood benefits of traditional food systems often warrant their support.

‘. . . Creating the policy, regulatory, and enabling environment for balancing nutrition, safety, sustainability, and fairness for truly healthier food systems is both critical and challenging.

‘Considering incentives, risk, and capacity can help governments facilitate the development of food systems that are safer, fairer, and more nutritious for their people.’

Read the whole guest commentary, Healthy foods must be nutritious, safe and fair, by John McDermott and Delia Grace, on the Global Food for Thought blog of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, 10 Apr 2015.

Upcoming event on 16 Apr 2015
Convened annually by the Chicago Council, the Global Food Security Symposium 2015 — Healthy Food for a Healthy World: Leveraging Agriculture and Food to Improve Global Nutrition — will address food systems for improved health. A new Chicago Council study will be released recommending ways the US can leverage its research institutions, deploy development and trade tools, and engage with business to improve health and nutrition globally. ILRI Board Chair Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, @LMSibanda, CEO of the pan-African Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy and Analysis Network (FANRPAN, @FANRPAN), is a speaker at this event. To follow the discussions, search for the #GlobalAg hashtag on social media and/or watch the livestream on 14 Apr on the Chicago Council’s website.

More information
ILRI’s AgHealth and Safe Food, Fair Food blogs.

Managing the most nutritious, and riskiest, foods in the informal markets of developing countries, ILRI News blog, 11 Apr 2015.

Despite contamination concerns, Africa must embrace ‘wet markets’ as key to food security, ILRI news release, 27 Jan 2015.

What’s eating sub-Saharan Africa?: New lessons in food safety and security from the food stalls of Africa’s ‘wet’ markets, opinion piece by ILRI scientists Delia Grace and Kristina Roesel published by Al Jazeera, 27 Jan 2015.

Food safety: Reducing and managing food scares, chapter 6 of IFPRI’s Global Food Policy Report, 2015, written by ILRI’s Delia Grace and IFPRI’s John McDermott.

City dairying in Kampala: integrating benefits and harms, by ILRI’s Delia Grace and others, in a book edited by Donald Cole, Diana Lee-Smith, George Nasinyama: Healthy City Harvests: Generating Evidence to Guide Policy on Urban Agriculture, published by the International Potato Center (CIP) and Makerere University Press, 2008.

Influence pathways and economic impacts of policy change in the Kenyan dairy sector, ILRI Research Report 15, by ILRI scientists Simeon Kaitibie, Amos Omore, Karl Rich, Beatrice Salasya, Nicholas Hooton, Daniel Mwero and Patti Kristjanson, 2009.

Watch Dying for Meat, a 3-minute film narrated by Delia Grace and produced by Duckrabbit for ILRI.

2 thoughts on “Healthy foods must be nutritious, safe and fair–But what is good for the rich may be bad for the poor

  1. One of the frustrations for me is the amount of funding that goes into Dairy projects without considering that meat is an inevitable by-product. In my lifetime I have seen huge increases in the E African SME dairy herd but no one wants to talk about meat. Actually sometimes I feel like I am about as popular as asking donors for uranium funding !

    There is funding for disease control, genetics, pasture and fodder but nothing for meat or cow recycling for the benefit of urban communities and rural traditional farmers!

    I work in Namibia and Botswana two of the last remaining EU approved beef export countries in Africa. Ironically we produce some of the most sought after free range beef on the global market and yet have some of the worst urban food security issues in the region.

    Bridging the gap between post mortem and retail is a well proven logistics step that only needs to adapt and scale down the technologies we use in normal commercial activity. Taking a carcass from an abattoir (or “slabatoir” in less developed areas) and then immediately taking it into a disciplined cool chain and process of deboning can be achieved.

    In Namibia we have a really successful pilot project where low quality cattle and cattle parts are turned into frozen offals, bones and wors (sausage) . This becomes safe, affordable protein (albeit not the cuts that they would enjoy in London). By producing 20KG frozen boxes of well presented and well graded low grade beef material the customers at the container shops have a further 12 hours to break down the boxes for further sale or shared distribution.

    For me this helps to address the fairness aspect where the best and safest meat goes to export. By utilising the food safety best practice of the commercial entity to benefit those less able to afford higher quality cuts – but should have the right to the same level of safe food – we at least have started the journey.

    If any of the safe food, fair food community has any ideas how to engage donors in expanding and sharing our Namibia experiences I would be delighted to discuss your ideas.

    At this time my lifetime contribution has been to keep the African leather industry working by wearing out endless pairs of shoes knocking on doors only to be told that meat is going to end the world. Exhausted !

  2. This is good news. Considering that in third world countries, method and techniques of preservation are either unavailable or not properly introduced. But if they are the safety precautions, health risks can be lessen.

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