06 March 20189 min reading

There has been an increased awareness on food safety in the world but food security is still under threat globally. The core question is whether today’s agriculture and food systems are capable of meeting the needs of a global population that is projected to reach more than 9 billion by mid-century. To improve food security in an inclusive and sustainable manner will require major transformations in agricultural systems. UN calls for a greater international collaboration to prevent emerging transboundary agriculture and food system threats.


Much progress has been made in decreasing hunger and improving food security and nutrition. Global food security is in danger, due to mounting pressures on natural resources and to climate change, both of which threaten the sustainability of food systems at large. There is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, yet 815 million people go hungry. One of the greatest challenges the world confronts is how to assure that a growing global population - projected to rise to around 10 billion by 2050 –has enough food to meet their nutritional needs.

After steadily declining for over a decade, global hunger appears to be on the rise, affecting 11 percent of the global population. The food security situation visibly worsened in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South Eastern and Western Asia. To feed another two billion people in 2050, food production will need to increase by 50 percent globally. Hunger has always been a terrible affliction for its victims and it now threatens to directly affect peace, security and stability. Food insecurity can be a consequence as well as a cause of conflict, making it inexorably linked with political, financial and economic stability. Food security is a complex condition requiring a holistic approach to all forms of malnutrition, the productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, resilience of food production systems and the sustainable use of biodiversity and genetic resources. UN calls all actors to improve food safety from farm to plate. To achieve that goal the health, agriculture, trade, and environment sectors need to work together.

According to FAO, there are 10 key challenges that need to be addressed if we are to succeed in eradicating hunger and poverty while making agriculture and food systems sustainable. Those challenges include the uneven demographic expansion that will take place in the coming decades, the threats posed by climate change, the intensification of natural disasters and upsurges in transboundary pests and diseases, and the need to adjust to major changes taking place in global food systems. Food security and human livelihoods will be increasingly jeopardized beyond 2030 owing to climate change impacts. Climate change affects food availability and has adverse impacts on crop yields, fish stocks and animal health. Conflict, especially when compounded by climate change, is also a key factor explaining the apparent reversal in the long-term declining trend in global hunger. Hunger and all forms of malnutrition will not end by 2030 unless all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition are addressed.

A number of countries heavily dependent on commodity exports have experienced dramatically reduced export and fiscal revenues in recent years. Thus food availability has been affected through reduced import capacity while access to food has deteriorated in part due to reduced fiscal potential to protect poor households against rising domestic food prices.

Recently, there has been an increased focus on food safety in the world. Public food safety standards have been enforced through legislation, and firms at different levels of the supply chain have developed various private standards. Within the public arena this has led to profound changes in regulations at national, regional and multilateral levels. However, food security is still under threat globally.

The core question is whether today’s agriculture and food systems are capable of meeting the needs of a global population that is projected to reach more than 9 billion by mid-century and may peak at more than 11 billion by the end of the century. Can we achieve the required production increases, even as the pressures on already scarce land and water resources and the negative impacts of climate change intensify? Can the huge problem of food losses and waste, estimated at as much as one-third of the total food produced for human consumption, be tackled? (The industrialised world wastes 222 million tons of food every year which is not much less than the entire net food production of Sub-Saharan Africa at 230 million tons.) Can the impacts of conflicts and natural disasters, both major disrupters of food security and the causes of vast migrations of people, be contained and prevented?

These are hard questins to be answered but we know ‘business-as-usual’ is not an option. Major transformations of agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed if we are to meet the multiple challenges before us and realize the full potential of food and agriculture to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet. The consensus view is that current systems are likely capable of producing enough food, but to do so in an inclusive and sustainable manner will require major transformations.

High-input, resource-intensive farming systems, which have caused massive deforestation, water scarcities, soil depletion and high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, cannot deliver sustainable food and agricultural production. Needed are innovative systems that protect and enhance the natural resource base, while increasing productivity. Needed is a transformative process towards ‘holistic’ approaches, such as agroecology, agro-forestry, climate-smart agriculture and conservation agriculture, which also build upon indigenous and traditional knowledge. Technological improvements, along with drastic cuts in economy-wide and agricultural fossil fuel use, would help address climate change and the intensification of natural hazards, which affect all ecosystems and every aspect of human life. Greater international collaboration is needed to prevent emerging transboundary agriculture and food system threats, such as pests and diseases.

HARMFUL BACTERIA ARE BECOMING RESISTANT TO DRUG TREATMENTS And also antimicrobial resistance is a growing global health concern. Overuse and misuse of antimicrobials in agriculture and animal husbandry, in addition to human clinical uses, is one of the factors leading to the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in animals may be transmitted to humans via food.

Food can become contaminated at any point of production and distribution, and the primary responsibility lies with food producers. Unsafe food poses global health threats, endangering everyone. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those with an underlying illness are particularly vulnerable. Every year 220 million children contract diarrhoeal diseases and 96 000 die.

Today’s food supply is complex and involves a range of different stages including on-farm production, harvesting, processing, storage, transport and distribution before the food reaches the consumers. Everyone along the production chain, from producer to consumer, has a role to play to ensure the food we eat does not cause diseases. Food contamination has far reaching effects beyond direct public health consequences – it undermines food exports, tourism, livelihoods of food handlers and economic development, both in developed and developing countries.

MILLING INDUSTRY’S RESPONSIBILITY IN FOOD SAFETY The milling industry also should take food safety issue seriously. To ensure the wholesome foods produced in the mills are not compromised is their responsibility. In that regard, food safety programs in the milling industry are designed to help maintain product integrity. Anticipating and preventing unintentional contamination before it occurs is the foundation of the modern, science-based process.

EVERYBODY HAS A ROLE TO PLAY IN KEEPING FOOD SAFE Food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, industry, producers, academia, and consumers. Everyone has a role to play. Achieving food safety is a multi-sectoral effort requiring expertise from a range of different disciplines – toxicology, microbiology, parasitology, nutrition, health economics, and human and veterinary medicine. Different governmental departments and agencies, encompassing public health, agriculture, education and trade, need to collaborate and communicate with each other and engage with the civil society including consumer groups.

KEY FACTS • Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. • Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. • An estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years. • Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year. • Diarrhoeal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230 000 deaths every year. • Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick. • Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade. • Food supply chains now cross multiple national borders. Good collaboration between governments, producers and consumers helps ensure food safety.

KEY MESSAGES: • Malnutrition and food-borne diseases impose large current and future human, economic, fiscal, and social costs on countries. Key among these is child stunting that has life-long consequences, reducing cognitive development and lifetime earnings of individuals, and undermining the future competitiveness of countries. • Reducing these costs requires multisector approaches. Governments often look to the health sector for interventions and solutions. However, the potential of food systems to leverage change and mitigate adverse nutrition and health impacts is frequently overlooked. • Shaping food systems to deliver improved nutrition and health requires a combination of improved knowledge, sound policies, regulations, and investments across the production-to-consumption continuum. The goal is to stimulate behavioral change in food producers, post-harvest handlers, food processors, food distributors, and consumers. • Countries need to tailor the combination of interventions to suit their specific needs. Moreover, different combinations of actions are needed across low- middle-and high-income countries.

Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.


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