Knowledge for Development

Food safety

Consumers need to be sure that the food they eat is safe. Stringent standards which generally vary from country to country are increasingly imposed on the international food trade by both public institutions and private corporations. As product and process requirements and supply logistics systems become more demanding, ACP trade in global markets is being impacted. This dossier identifies key challenges and strategies for the ACP community in meeting international quality and food safety requirements and was prepared by KIT in collaboration with CTA – September 2007. Edited by J.A. Francis, CTA & J. Sluijs, KIT.

Aquaculture is the fastest-developing branch of the global food industry, with annual growth of 9 %. This rapid rise is pushing up demand for fish feed and the supply of fishmeal and fish oil – important ingredients in feed – is dwindling. They are set to be replaced by crops such as soya, maize and rape, but feed pellets made from them might contain pesticides. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Schmallenberg, Germany have developed a system to test whether chemical substances accumulate in fish that are fed contaminated feed. In autumn 2011, the European Commission will publish new data requirements for fish as part of the approval process for pesticides. These will oblige every producer and importer who intends to bring a new pesticide onto the European market not only to register it but also to provide information proving it cannot accumulate in the edible parts of fish. The fish test developed at the IME will supply the information required. (Fraunhofer Institute, 2/11/2011) 12/01/2012
A new approach, reported by a collaborative team led by Cornell University scientists, will enable government agencies and food companies to pinpoint the exact nature and origin of food-borne bacteria with unprecedented accuracy. The standard method of tracing food-borne illness involves breaking up the DNA of bacteria samples into smaller pieces and analyzing their banding patterns. But scientists often find that different strains of bacteria have common DNA fingerprints that are too genetically similar to be able to differentiate between them. To surmount this challenge, Martin Wiedmann and colleagues adopted a genomic approach. The use of genome sequencing methods to investigate outbreaks of food-borne bacterial diseases holds great promise as it can help to identify the temporal, geographical and evolutionary origin of an outbreak. Full genome sequence data may help to identify small outbreaks that may not be easily detected with lower resolution sub-typing approaches. (Cornell Chronicles, 24/10/2011) 12/01/2012
The Centre of Phytosanitary Excellence for Africa (COPE), a joint venture by Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services (KEPHIS, Kenya), the University of Nairobi (UoN, Kenya), and CABI (Centre for Agricultural Bioscience International, UK), will provide plant health – or phytosanitary – services to public and private clients so that they are able to comply with international phytosanitary standards and the legislative requirements of importing countries. COPE’s services include a range of training programmes in phytosanitary policy and practice, and a unit for applied pest risk analysis (PRA). The training will range from short in-service modules to full degree programmes and will make full use of the Centre’s plant inspection facility and information management system. The PRA unit will conduct pest risk analyses according to relevant international standards while supporting a network of African pest risk analysts. The development of COPE was funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility of the World Trade Organization (STDF-WTO), the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the Netherlands Plant Protection Service (NPPS-Netherlands), the Inter African Phytosanitary Council of the African Union and national plant health service providers in the East and Southern Africa. The launch of the Centre of phytosanitary excellence (COPE) took place simultaneously in Nairobi (Kenya), Lusaka (Zambia) and Dar es Salaam (Tanzania) on 27 October 2010. (Source:; 01 November 2010) 09/11/2010
Industrialized nations have implemented regulations and preventive programmes in an attempt to stem the incidence of food-borne disease and safeguard the health of consumers. Surveillance and tracing of food borne outbreaks have become more sophisticated, for example PulseNet (network of labs of public health and regulatory agencies) and FoodNet (active surveillance for food-borne disease) in North America. African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) nations must conform to international food safety standards to compete effectively in global trade. International organizations such as FAO and WHO have assisted in identifying needs but, regional organizations and national governments must improve their monitoring and traceability systems to minimize the risks to human life or markets. Vigilant and effective regulatory systems would also assist ACP countries to prevent indiscriminate dumping of sub-standard products. The scientific community should lead the effort in designing and implementing food safety systems including programmes for training actors: from growers to consumers. Universities and research institutes in ACP regions should play a role in identifying specific food safety challenges and developing sampling and testing procedures which respond to the diversity that exists within the food industry. 18/10/2007
Quality and safety requirements in cross border agri-food chains have become strict and rigid. This is related both to public regulation, such as the European General Food Law, and private voluntary regulatory systems e.g. EurepGAP, a pre-farm-gate-standard initiated by European retailers. Standards are primarily designed to maintain consumer confidence in food quality and safety. Attached to these, are goals to minimize environmental impacts of farming operations, optimize the use of inputs and ensure the health and safety of workers. This indicates that, increasingly, food quality and safety requirements do not only address issues, related to the actual product, but also incorporate environmental sustainability and social welfare matters surfacing in the production processes. It can be expected that in the coming years, producer organizations and international trade and industry players, possibly in tandem with government agencies, will seek new forms of inter-related regulations. 18/10/2007

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