With support from the European Union (EU), Market Access Upgrade Program (MARKUP) Kenya joins the rest of the world in marking the World Food Safety Day. This year’s theme of ‘Safe Food Today for a Healthy Tomorrow’ is a call for all stakeholders to actively play their role in ensuring safe food, not only at present, but also future days.
Implemented by United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) in partnership with the government and the private sector, MARKUP Kenya is part of the regional EAC-EU MARKUP programme. The programme aims at promoting food safety, competitiveness and market access for Kenyan produce, with a focus on; selected vegetables, fruits, nuts, herbs and spices.
Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. According to the WHO, unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. An estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years (DALYs). This imposes an enormous economic and social cost, especially amongst low income consumers and children. Children under five years carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden. Ensuring food safety is therefore an important and critical responsibility of agricultural and food business operators, from farm to fork. Governments should ensure that a regulatory system is in place to help ensure food safety during production, distribution and that food handlers observe safety measures. Food supply chains cross multiple national borders and good collaboration between governments, producers and consumers is needed to help ensure food safety.
In Kenya the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy was adopted in 2011 under the Ministry of Health and commits the Government to “ensure that safe and high quality food is available to all Kenyans, at all times, by creating public awareness on relevant issues, and by setting, promoting and enforcing appropriate guidelines, codes of practice, standards and a regulatory framework.” To this end the Government, supported by the EU MARKUP Kenya program is working to strengthen the food safety capacity of government systems and institutions. The project is advising on the development of a new policy process, and development of a new draft Food Safety Act, to replace the out-of-date provisions of the Public Health Act and the Food Drugs and Chemical Substances Act.
These do not reflect modern principles of food safety based on the risk analysis approach as set out in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement of the WTO. The new approach also promotes the establishment of a new single body responsible for food safety risk management to replace the current approach, which is fragmented and distributed across several Ministries and institutions.
On this occasion of the World Food Safety Day 2021, we at MARKUP urge all Kenyans to support this reform process by expressing its importance to your elected representatives. And for those of us engaged in the production and supply of food, including those of us who prepare food in the home, let us celebrate WFSD by making extra efforts to ensure that food is produced in a hygienic and safe way. Cook food well, and if you have food left over, keep it in the refrigerator if possible, and reheat thoroughly. And always, wash your hands after using the bathroom as well as before handling food. Keep it clean and keep it cool!
Dr. Ian Goulding
UNIDO International Expert,
Food Safety EU MARKUP Project, Kenya