First international conference on food safety and nutrition was held on 12th – 13th February at the headquarters of the African Union at Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. Unsafe food is a threat to human health and economies globally. According to a recent World Bank study, it is estimated that there are 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually and the foodborne illnesses in low and middle-income countries costs at least US$100 billion a year. Children and economically deprived people are the most vulnerable, shouldering a larger burden of foodborne illnesses.
With its large size and a larger share of children and poor, India’s burden of foodborne illnesses is very high. India is one of the first developing countries that have responded to this challenge by having robust legal and institutional arrangements to address food safety issues. India’s Food Safety Authority has evolved its own low cost, high impact model. India’s 3-P (People, Private Sector and Partnership) model places people first. By engaging with people wherever they are at home, at school, at workplaces or when eating out, India’s Food Authority has integrated food safety in people’s everyday life in a seamless manner.
India’s 3P unique model of food safety found a lot of traction amongst low and middle-income countries including African countries during the conference. Exhibition booth at the conference attracted hundreds of regulators from across the world. Thanking the organizers, CEO, FSSAI, Pawan Agarwal said that “India’s low cost and effective model of food safety that primarily focuses on empowering consumers and building capacities of key stakeholders has relevance for all low and middle-income countries that are struggling to set up the system for food safety. In many of these countries, food safety has to compete with their public health priorities for scarce resources.”
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva remarked that “There is no food security without food safety.” He added that “the conference provides a great opportunity for the international community to strengthen political commitments and engage in key actions on food safety.”
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, DG, WHO said that “Food should be a source of nourishment and enjoyment, not a cause of disease or death.” He added that “Unsafe food is responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths every year, but has not received the political attention it deserves. Ensuring people have access to safe food takes sustained investment in stronger regulations, laboratories, surveillance and monitoring. In our globalized world, food safety is everyone’s issue.”