Celebrating World Food Safety Day, From Georgia to Uganda 
On World Food Safety Day, let’s remember that we all have a role to play in keeping our food safe — whether we grow, process, transport, store, sell, buy, prepare, or serve food. 
Banner photo: New products are displayed at the World Food Safety Day Fair in Tbilisi, Georgia on June 7, 2022.

In March 2019, in a remote area of Uganda five people died and several people became mysteriously ill from acute gastrointestinal and neurologic symptoms. Scientists canvassed the area to determine the origin and discovered atropine and scopolamine in samples of Turkish corn-soy blend distributed by the World Food Program in Moroto earlier that month. Beyond poor harvesting control at the production site, the absence of random lot sampling at port of entry and sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) control and organization contributed to the problem.  

Sadly, this story isn’t unique — unsafe food causes 600 million global cases of foodborne diseases and 420,000 deaths. Thirty percent of foodborne deaths occur among children under five years of age. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that 33 million healthy lives are lost due to consuming contaminated food globally each year, and this number is likely to be underestimated. Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism, and trade.

In 2018, the United Nations General Assembly established World Food Safety Day to raise awareness around this important issue. This year’s theme, “Safer food, better health,” highlights the role that safe, nutritional food plays in ensuring human health and well-being and calls for specific actions to make food safer. We all have a role to play in food safety — whether we grow, process, transport, store, sell, buy, prepare, or serve food. Food safety is in all of our hands. Therefore, if we work together, we can all help achieve safer food for better health.

Why is food safety so important? 

Food safety, nutrition, and food security are closely linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly, and the sick. In addition to contributing to food and nutrition security, a safe food supply also supports national economies, trade, and tourism, stimulating sustainable development. The globalization of food trade, a growing world population, and rapidly changing food systems all have an impact on the safety of food. 
Food products are among the most-traded commodities in the world. As markets become increasingly globalized with each passing year, and as the world’s population continues to grow, the global food supply chain will only continue to increase in scale and complexity. Precisely because of these megatrends influencing the mass production and distribution of food, food safety compliance has never been more important. 

At Land O’Lakes Venture37, we recognize how these issues are interconnected. Today, we look at two of our projects to see how we’re supporting different actors — from government inspectors to food processors — to ensure safer food supplies. 

Click here to learn more about Venture37’s approach to food safety.

Here’s how the USDA Safety and Quality Investment in Livestock Project and the USDA Trade in Agriculture Safely and Efficiently program are doing their part.  

Ensuring Food Safety in Georgia 

With funding from the USDA Food for Progress 2018 program, Venture37 is implementing the Safety and Quality Investment in Livestock (SQIL) project in the Republic of Georgia. The project improves the competitiveness of the Georgian dairy and beef industry through improved productivity, food safety, and food quality within Georgia’s dairy and beef market systems. In turn, this will increase trade, productivity, and employment opportunities in both sectors.  

Through the project, Venture37 is partnering with the Georgian Farmers’ Association (GFA), which combines agribusiness know-how with industry-leading food safety acumen and deep Georgian agribusiness connections. While focusing on the private sector capacity to meet internationally recognized food safety standards, the project complements the development of Georgian government agencies mandated with food safety assurance for achieving the SQIL objectives.  

Since October 2018, SQIL has reached over 40,000 farmers and employees of 371 Georgian food business operators, enabling them to adopt technologies and business practices that incentivize, assist and assure adoption of improved and internationally recognized food safety and quality standards.  
By project close, the Georgian dairy and beef industries are slated to increase their domestic dairy and beef sales by USD 130 million. The project aims to assist over 300 food business operators to adoption of internationally recognized standards and food safety assurance systems, and it aims to help over 20,000 farmers and enterprises adopt productivity enhancement, innovations and marketing. 

Strengthening Food Safety in East Africa

Over the last few decades, the East African Community (EAC) has adopted SPS policies, standards, and regulations. However, implementation or domestication —including inspection and enforcement— remains weak. The USDA Trade of Agriculture Safely and Efficiently (TRASE) in East Africa project is strengthening food safety systems through enhanced implementation of regional and international food safety standards through training sessions, capacity building, and knowledge sharing between East African countries and globally. 

The TRASE project helped to establish the “Food Inspectors’ Forum” for African food inspectors and regulators to address barriers, support reform, share information, and influence good practices in the EAC. The platform will promote science in the Food Inspection Service and help raise the concerns of food safety professionals, particularly those working in the food inspection service.   

TRASE provides technical assistance to East African countries to update their food safety policies, laws, and regulations. In Uganda, TRASE reviewed two key legislations: (i) the draft National Food and Drug Authority (NFDA) Bill, and (ii) the agrochemicals law. The government adopted recommendations of the review, which included development of a standalone food safety law Rwanda and Uganda are drawing lessons from Kenya about food safety as they embark on their own reforms. Though Kenya has made great strides to improve food safety over the years, TRASE is supporting Kenya’s Ministry of Health to review the food safety inspection protocols from the Food and Feed Safety Coordination Bill (draft) which will adopt a risk-based approach and improve inter-ministerial coordination.
The TRASE project supports EAC governments to strengthen food control systems through greater use of regulatory science and laboratory capacity building. In early 2022, TRASE trained 74 analysts and 28 food safety regulatory laboratories to identify and address capacity gaps.   

Observing World Food Safety Day 

Food security and food safety are intrinsically linked. In a world where the food supply chain has become more complex, any adverse food safety incident may have global negative effects on public health, trade, and the economy. The global burden of foodborne diseases affects individuals of all ages, particularly communities living in low-income areas of the world. Therefore, improving food safety positively contributes to trade, employment, and alleviation of poverty worldwide.  

World Food Safety Day reminds us that we all have a role to play in ensuring a safe food supply and the importance of nurturing collaboration across different sectors.  

Learn more about Venture37’s worldwide work and their approach to food safety here.
By Martha Byanyima, Emmet Murphy, Rusudani Tsiklauri 06/07/2022 #Blog