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Focus on food safety, governments urged as global event is marked

Sunday June 07 2020
galana

Maize growing at the Galana-Kulalu Food Security Project fram in Tana River County. Amid the growing Covid-19 pandemic, governments have been urged to intensify food safety campaigns. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By RACHEL KIBUI

Amid the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, food security has become a major concern, especially to vulnerable communities across the world.

Many are now finding it more difficult than ever to put food on the table as the pandemic has impacted heavily on various sources of livelihoods.

Today, Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the second World Food Safety Day (WFSD), which is marked on June 7.

The European Union (EU) has been at the forefront in supporting this important sector, which affects humans in health and wealth.

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FOOD SAFETY CAMPAIGN

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For close to two months now, an EU-funded project has been actively advocating for food safety measures especially in the wake of Covid-19.

This week though, the Market Access Upgrade Program (MARKUP), is intensifying the campaign, in line with WFSD.

MARKUP is implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and the State Department of Trade.

The project aims at promoting competitiveness for Kenyan produce locally, within the East African region as well as on the international arena.

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 SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCE

MARKUP’s food safety campaign, which is run through online and traditional media, targets food producers, transporters, sellers, chefs and cooks as well as consumers.

Last week, this campaign engaged social media influencers in a cooking demo for different delicacies, with focus on food safety and its importance.

“The chefs, all who have a huge following on social media, are supposed to show different ways in which they observe food safety,” says Stefano Sedola, Unido’s chief technical advisor for MARKUP project

He adds that different influencers had been selected to reach out to various demographical groups, depending on the age of their followers on social media.

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COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY

Mr Sedola called for collective responsibility on food safety issues, saying it is the duty of governments, development organisations, individuals, professionals and all to take responsibility.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 600 million people in the world – almost one in 10 – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420,000 die every year.

Children under five, WHO says, carry 40 per cent of the foodborne disease burden, with 125,000 deaths every year, while an estimated 700,000 people die around the globe because of antimicrobial resistant infections.

Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water.

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DEVELOPMENT IMPEDED

The diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining healthcare systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade.

“Safe food is critical, not only to better health and food security, but also for livelihoods, economic development, trade and the international reputation of every country,” reads a WHO report.

The report recommends good hygiene practices in the food and agricultural sectors in order to reduce the emergence and spread of foodborne diseases.

It further calls for better data indicating that this is needed to understand the far- reaching impacts of unsafe food.

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EDUCATING CONSUMERS

“Food safety education helps consumers to make informed and healthy choices and push for a safer food supply,” the report further reads.

As part of its food safety and WFSD campaign, MARKUP Kenya has been calling for hygienic measures such as labelling produce well to ease traceability, and covering food to keep it away from contamination by flies and other insects.

Other messages include the need to keep food at safe temperatures, separate raw and cooked food and use of proper transport vehicles among others.

The MARKUP team has also been part of the larger national food safety committee which include government ministries, government institutions, the private sector as well as development organisations.

“Food safety issues must become a day-to-day practice rather than a one-day [event],” says Mr Sedola, adding that communication plays a key role in captivating a culture of food safety practices along the value chain.

With safe food, he adds, there is an assurance of better health among consumers and economic growth for traders along the food chain.

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