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Continent-wide webinar focuses on how improved food safety is essential to achieve nutrition targets and end malnutrition


By Lusibilo Witson MWAMAKAMBA

The African Union Commission (AUC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) held a successful webinar on 23rd February 2023 in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Codex Coordinating Committee for Africa (CCAFRICA). The webinar was held on the heels of the recently concluded African Union Year of Nutrition, 2022 and highlighted the inextricable links between food safety and nutrition to achieve optimal health and well-being in the continent.

The event was, addressed by Amare Ayalew, Program Manager, Partnership for Aflatoxin Control for Africa (PACA), AUC, Adelheid Onyango, Director of the Healthier Populations Cluster, WHO Regional Office for Africa, Mphumuzi Sukati, Senior Food and Nutrition Officer, FAO Regional Office for Africa, Saskia de Pee, Chief Analytics and Science for Food and Nutrition at WFP and Hakim Mufumbiro, Coordinator of CCAFRICA and moderated by John Oppong-Otoo, Food Safety Officer, AU-IBAR.

Speaking at the event, Amare Ayelew noted that “it was high time to recognize in our deeds beyond lip service that an inseparable link exists between food safety, nutrition and food security as well as public health and trade”. Saskia de Pee agreed saying “we cannot achieve food security for all, if we do not consider food safety and nutrition”. Further, Adelheid Onyango pointed out that “safe food is healthy food and healthy food is safe food, if one of these is missing, we have lost the plot”. She noted the need for an “integrated approach where food safety and nutrition are systematically introduced and mainstreamed in food systems policies and interventions”.

Touching on one of the themes of the webinar, Hakim Mufumbiro informed participants of the CCAFRICA guidelines recently approved to support members in the harmonization of food legislation pointing out that the guidelines are important in ensuring the establishment or review of national systems to have a robust food control system which ultimately provide an assurance of safe food and by extension nutrition outcomes”.

A keynote address was delivered by Luz Maria De Regil, Head of the Multisectoral Action in Food Systems unit at the WHO, Headquarters who relayed the state of food security and nutrition in the world and the burden of foodborne diseases. She further described the multiple interconnections between nutrition and food safety, looking at it in the lens of the food system. For the food supply chain for example, she noted that “changes in the demand for food safety may affect nutritious foods, production, supply chain, development and availability in markets. In turn nutritious foods may trigger innovations for food safety measures”. Consumer behavior and perception on the other hand is important as she pointed for example “inability to understand labels may lead to erroneous perception of safe or healthy food”.

Practical examples of ensuring integration of food safety and nutrition were shared during the event touching on how the food system transformation pathways provide a good opportunity to bring together food safety and nutrition actions and the need for a food systems approach for better integration of food safety and nutrition interventions. There was a call to enhance capacity along the food chain among producers, processors and consumers and the need to promote awareness on food safety and nutrition to enhance compliance and adoption of best practices along the food systems value chain. Emphasis was also placed on the importance of prioritizing food safety and nutrition for enhanced investment.

Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya and The Gambia shared country-wide experiences providing further insights on the practical integration of food safety and nutrition interventions in the field with examples on successful implementation of Food fortification programmes.

The participants at the webinar appreciated the collaborative efforts of AUC, FAO, WHO, WFP and CCAFRICA in bridging the information gap on the critical importance of Food Safety and its contribution in combating malnutrition and ending hunger in the continent consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. There was an overwhelming call to utilize such interactive webinars to foster engagement in the region.


Learn more

WHO food safety web pages

Photo credit: © World Health Organization / Lusubilo Witson MWAMAKAMBA