A project in China has found the country improved its food safety control system from 2009 to 2019 and food did become safer.

China launched the food safety indicator pilot project in 2019, a decade after the food safety law came into force, to assess its effectiveness.

During a kick-off workshop, six indicators were selected from 40 listed by FAO Asia Pacific and five technical working groups were established to work on them.

Indicators help analyze existing systems, standards and frameworks, identify areas for improvement and determine the future direction for food safety in China, according to a project report.

One of the indicators looked at Salmonella and Listeria in raw and cooked meat and reported outbreaks caused by the two pathogens in meat products. Contamination by Salmonella and Listeria of raw  meat, from 2009 to 2018, was getting better, which experts said could be because of stricter regulation and monitoring.

The overall contamination rate of Salmonella in fresh meat was higher than that of Listeria monocytogenes. This was the opposite way around for cooked meat products. After 2015, the contamination rate of Salmonella in fresh meat and Listeria in cooked meat products declined.

Experts said industry should intensify prevention in slaughterhouses and further processing, government regulators should strengthen law enforcement, and consumer awareness on handling of meat needs to be improved.

Other indicators focused on water quality, risk analysis ability, the notification system for food safety incidents and outbreaks, and structure of the national control system in the country.

China has the largest population in the world and is one of the largest food exporters and importers.

A guide has already been published after several countries in the Asia Pacific region asked the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to help them develop food safety indicators.

Future work will look at the other indicators and development of a food safety index for China, officials said.

Food safety and nutrition in Africa
The FAO has also published a document on food safety and nutrition in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region with a number of recommendations.

The mortality rate among children younger than 5 because of diarrhea is highest in countries such as Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

Food safety and nutrition are often addressed as separate issues, according to FAO.

“Improvements in nutrition cannot be achieved without addressing food safety along the entire agri-food value chains. The nutritious foods that contribute to healthy diets, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, animal-sourced foods such as meat, dairy and eggs, and seafood are the foods that can be one of the most susceptible commodities to food safety hazards,” said the guide.

“Foodborne diseases resulting in chronic diarrhea can negatively impact on nutritional status by reducing nutrient absorption and exacerbating nutrient deficiencies. Safety and nutritional quality of foods need to be tackled along the entire agri-food value chain, from on-farm practices, use of agricultural inputs, e.g. safe water, high quality fertilizers and plant protection products, through production, harvesting, processing, storage, distribution, and preparation to consumption.”

Recommendations include enhancing awareness of food safety hazards and risks; promoting an approach that connects food safety and nutrition in a consistent manner; having targeted policies, legislation, standards, enforcement and monitoring their implementation and surveillance, and reinforcing national food control systems.

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