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Why Low-Income Countries Should Care About Food Safety

Opinion

Food safety is one of the most ignored areas of policy in low-income countries, especially in Africa. As a result, food systems in these countries are not always as well organized and comprehensive as in the industrialized world. This situation is exacerbated by an ever-growing population, rapid urbanization and, most importantly, a lack of the economic and technical resources needed to support a sound food safety system. As a result, people in developing countries are continuously exposed to a wide range of potential food safety risks.

Indeed, ensuring food safety at the national level is a very expensive undertaking and this is a major setback for most low-income countries. In the U.S, the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA), spends hundreds of millions of dollars each year to ensure the safety of the U.S. food supply. Even with such large sums of money going into this endeavor, the American food safety system is not perfect. The FDA is constantly understaffed and underfunded to carry out its duties considering the influx of food imports resulting from the expanding global food system.

Now, if funding food safety is proving to be a little bit challenging to the U.S., which is way better off economically than a developing nation, imagine how hard it can be for a poor impoverished country to take on this feat. Apart from economic challenges, most poor countries are also struggling with food insecurity. This seems to be a more burning issue that is accorded immediate attention while issues of food safety take a back seat. As a result, poor countries usually have some of the worst food safety systems in the world. Given this bleak background, why should poor countries care about food safety?

There are a number of compelling reasons why poor countries should improve their food safety systems. By taking such measures, a developing nation could:

  • Boost food safety on a local level
  • Increase revenue through international food trade
  • Bolster food security

In a globalized world like ours, poor countries cannot afford to ignore food safety issues. Such a stance is detrimental to their weak economies because it leads to a loss of revenue from international food trade. There is a huge difference between food safety standards in developing countries and developed. Consequently, poor countries keep losing revenue that they could have gained had they been able to produce food that was safe enough to meet the high standards required by international markets. At the same time, poor countries lose even more revenue because they have opened their markets to imports (including food products) as per their WTO commitments. (Members of the World Trade Organization, which include most developing countries, must import from other member companies if they wish to export as well). Developing countries import a lot of food to cater to developed countries’ middle classes, which have higher standards for their food. As result poor countries get hit on both ends, making it harder for them to come out of the poverty cycle. It is crucial that developing countries upgrade their food safety systems to unlock the doors to international food markets. This endeavor should be treated as an investment that has the capability of paying off greatly in the end.

Why Food Trade Can Help Developing Nations

The food industry is currently one of the fastest growing in the world, as populations are burgeoning worldwide. Since agriculture is the main industry in most developing nations, food is what these countries have to offer as their best trade asset. Food production is becoming one of the most profitable investments, as evidenced by the fact that “land grabbing” has become rampant in Africa. Research shows that over the past few years, companies and foreign governments have been leasing large areas of land in poor countries in Africa. This is being done in anticipation of a sharp increase in world food and commodity prices that is already becoming a reality in countries like Ethiopia and Tanzania. Countries with high populations like India and China are actually going on land buying missions in Africa to safeguard food security in their respective countries. This situation provides an opportunity for African countries to increase their food exports. It also points to the fact that food production can be a very profitable investment, and might just be the key to the much needed economic development in Africa.

There are also added benefits that can trickle from the creation of sound food safety systems in low-income countries. For instance, an improvement of food safety systems in poor countries can also translate into food security, which tops the list of problems in these countries. Research has shown that there is a connection between food safety and food security. In fact, food security is defined as access to adequate, nutritious and safe food. As long as food safety is ignored, there is no way a country can be said to be truly food secure. Research has also shown that a lot of food is wasted due to lack of proper food safety systems. There is a lot of food spoilage caused by poor food storage systems and this is one of the main contributing factors to food insecurity. As such, correcting the food safety problem can help these countries make strides towards attaining food security.

Finally, one may argue that proceeds from food trade can enable the governments in these countries to spend more on agriculture, through subsidies and other supports, thereby alleviating food insecurity. So yes, poor countries do need to put their food safety systems in order so that they can reap the ensuing economic and social benefits.

© Food Safety News
  • Alexis

    Low income is a blessing for these countries because it prevents industrialization or modernization of their food supplies. Safe abundant food leads to obesity which leads to diabetes which will soon make humans an extinct species. Our children are all dying and average lifespan is plummeting toward zero. It is a terrible terrible public health crisis caused by modern technology not endured by poor nations. Plus poor nations retain primitive agriculture to supplement fishing, hunting and gathering and that is a more natural state of affairs. So preferable to modern urbanized cultures with obesity and diabetes destroying everything. Poor nations are the only hope for mankind. That is who will populate the planet after modern man has destroyed himself by eating too much food. Only a few of us will remain who understand how natural lifestyles are the only sustainable way to go. Wealth and modern safe food is NOT sustainable.  Science and technology is killing all of us by keeping us too safe and too well cared for.

  • Low income countries should as matter of fact consider food safety a serious issue due to the threat it posed. However, the challenges faced by some of the developing countries exceed the perceived consequences of the food safety. Food safety in such countries can lead to the development of international trade which will have a greater benefit on the economy of the nation involved and also counter the effect of drought there by reducing starvation. They have the land and other resources, what remain now is the utilization and the earlier they face it the better for the populace and indeed the entire world. 

  • vet pair

     

    Although developing countries
    are suffering by food crisis, I think that they are better by looking into some
    directions such as that their resources are still remain natural and not modified
    and their problem of food crisis is not really from lack of food safety only
    but also is due to problems and affairs from developed countries like USA and
    Europe who always have their own politics in these countries. And may be that
    they are happy to the situation because if these countries develop and improve
    the way they produce food having good management and safety, developed countries
    will suffer according to the marketing food because all of the world will
    prefer these natural products and then the economics of developed countries
    will decrease and go down.

    However, despite all the
    thoughts given (either by Alexis or others), it is better for the developing
    countries to start the food safety system at least at the minimum level (e.g.
    locally produced food from raw materials which come locally) as its benefit the
    developing countries nation. By improving the food safety system, it is the way
    to ensure food security.

  • Mustygoni

    Food-borne diseases are a
    serious and  great threat to people in Africa, especially Africans
    already millions weakened from devastating conditions such as malaria and HIV/AIDS.

    Food safety issue is the
    most ignored areas in Africa, mostly because of increasing population growth
    rate of 5%, urbanization due to migration to the urban areas leaving the rural
    life style and farming, and also lack of economic to finance a standard
    mechanism that can supervise and monitored the food safety.

    Most of the developing countries do not have
    adequate food security, resulting in a situation where at least 60 percent of
    the food supply is imported to supplement local production, the safety of
    imported food cannot always be assured, adding to the risk of widespread food
    contamination. Improved food safety would help to reduce the 2 000 deaths
    estimated to occur every day in Africa from food and waterborne diseases.

    The most advantages driving from food safety are:
    increasing food at the local level of the community; revenue earning to both
    government and the people; there will be increase food security at all level.

    At last, the national government of this
    country’s has to allocate more to agriculture by providing train and retraining
    for expertise in farming sector, subsidies and loans for farmers and there has
    to be regulatory mechanism that can enforce rules and regulation for standard
    food safety law.

     

  • Yusufdvm

    Agencies concerned with food
    safety issues exist in some African countries but are given less priority and
    deliberately made non-functional due to lack of political will and funding. People
    in Africa will not appreciate the importance of food safety so long as many
    live in hunger and the so called ‘unsafe food’ is hard to get. As food security
    and safety are inter-connected, Governments in Africa have to implement
    sustainable and functional food security measures as included in the Millennium
    Development Goals (MDGs) in order to have safe food for the populace. Implementing
    food safety steps at local level may be more challenging and less effective as
    local authorities are considered the worst level of governance in Africa. In my
    opinion, public education at grass root should be the first step in encouraging
    and providing safe food for public consumption. However, food safety issues
    aimed for international trade have to be implemented and enforced by the
    Federal and State governments, who have the power and authority to decide on
    health and economic issues for the country.

    The international community also has
    a role to play in ensuring food security and consequently food safety in
    developing countries by encouraging the IMF and World Bank subsidize loans
    meant for agriculture in developing countries. Presently the World Bank
    subsidizes agriculture loans to many developed countries where food security
    and safety are not serious issues, yet developing countries where people die of
    hunger every day do not enjoy such privilege. In addition, developed countries look
    down on developing countries and do not want their products to be imported even
    if they are proven to be safe. If this view and perception do not change among
    the industrialized nations, food safety may not give developing nations better
    access to international food trade. Although the WTO regulates trade, it has
    already been dominated by the developed nations and decisions favorable only to
    developing nations may hardly scale through.