There’s more to food than just security

Food safety in developing countries is an underreported yet crucial issue

Food safety as well as food security is a key issue in the developing world

The reporting of food issues in the developing world is stuck in a rut, according to Claudia Stein from the WHO’s department of Food Safety, Zoonoses and Foodborne Diseases.

Journalists mostly cover food security when it comes to developing countries. Although it is often the highest priority, food safety is a huge issue and, if food is not safe, it can end up creating worse problems.

Foodborne diseases are “the diseases of the poor”, Stein told yesterday’s session ‘Food: The good, the bad and the misreported’. They are on the rise and the key problem is this: In vulnerable settings, food will never be thrown away. She cited the example of a maize sent as food aid to Mozambique that became contaminated with a fungus somewhere along the line.

Four of the Millennium Development Goals are affected by food — which shows how important this subject is to development practitioners. In impoverished settings, food storage and production practices are often inadequate which leads to food contamination, Stein said.

People with HIV/AIDS are more prone to developing severe illness from these diseases — both child mortality from diarrhoea and the infection of pregnant women is high.

Stein said that data from developing countries on foodborne diseases is scarce, which makes it difficult to estimate the scale of the problem. If development is to happen, she said, more attention must be paid to making sure not just food, but safe food, reaches the people that need it.

At the end of the year, SciDev.Net will launch a collection of articles on nutrition.

Carmen Fishwick, SciDev.Net

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