Food safety is a sphere where public action is least effective

08Jun 2022
The Guardian
Food safety is a sphere where public action is least effective

WORLD Food Safety Day is marked globally on June 7, a moment that chroniclers say is meant to highlight the pivotal role in society of safe and nutritional food, inspired by the World Health Organization (WHO). It has in recent months announced the theme for this year’s anniversary as “Safer food,-

-better health,” launching a campaign to inspire global participation. The reason is clear for everyone to see, that safe food is one of the most critical guarantors for good health. Unsafe foods ignite many diseases and contribute to other poor health conditions, like impaired growth or children development.

There are two levels of marking World Food Safety Day, one capable of being described as ‘macro’ in character, as to the global picture of suffering due to inhospitable conditions for producing and delivering food. This aspect is a barometric indicator of where a country has reached in development, for instance whether it still has periodic outbreaks of cholera or they have since been eliminated in large measure. At an earlier date the world thought the Covid-19 pandemic arose from eating bats, like SARS back in 2012.

The other side, and it is this aspect that concerns scientists the most during World Food Safety Day, is ‘micro’ in character, which has to do with ‘unsafe’ eating of food, for instance a diet with glaring micronutrient deficiencies, causing non-communicable diseases in particular. Communicable diseases are transmitted largely from deficiencies of the ‘macro’ character, tied up with environmental, societal conditions in which food commerce is conducted, or people live in neighbourhood. Mental illness is also cited by a chronicler as one of the kind of threats arising from chronic under-nutrition, grossly deficient.

The biggest threat facing society in that context is foodborne diseases, where experts say that one in ten people are affected by foodborne diseases during the year. International networks of experts are using the ‘safer food, better health’ theme to stress the need to transform food systems to deliver better health in a sustainable manner, to prevent most foodborne diseases. Policy makers in food safety and delivery seek to work with investors to reorient farming or food processing activities to increase sustainable production and consumption of safe foods. The idea promises health dividends but there are cultural impediments.

Adopting scientific means of ‘sanitising’ food cleaning up the genes, to diminish the sugars which attract pests that are the source o plenty of food poisoning attracts massive disputes. Critics see this formula as leading to elimination of most native species of staple crops to farm only seeds manufactured by international companies, especially those based in the United States. It is a debate that has raged for years and Tanzania, being close to member states of the European Union who prefer organic cultivation using little or no pesticides, took a careful view of GMO. East African Community (EAC) member states were individually drawing up rules of local certification of any GM-based foods, to be sure of its safety.

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