Food safety is receiving much attention at the global level as its necessity crosslinking between food and health gaining momentum across the world. As food safety improvement is an unavoidable element in the campaign, work and progress towards food security. As food trade is expanding across the world, food safety has become a shared concern among both the developed and developing countries.
Enhancing food safety, is vital to improving the health and nutrition of the consumers, an SDG 2 goal. Improving food availability does not only benefit those at nutritional risk without correspondence to improvements in the nutritional quality and safety of food as there is reduced food- borne illness and disease. In order to addressing food safety, developing countries should evaluate investments in the overall scope of public health, nutrition and food systems policies.
Food control is the compulsory regulatory activity of enforcement by the authorities to provide consumer protection and ensure foods are safe during production; handling; storage; processing; distribution and fit for human consumption.
The Food Safety Issues
Every consumer is always on the lookout when purchasing food. The food safety concerns plays vital role in the consumer health and that is why nobody would wish to consume unsafe/unhygienic food. Currently global food production has been consolidated with troubling results. This is due to the takeover of the food industry by dominant multinational organizations resulting to the shift in focus on food production. Increase in food industry competition has seen diversion in the industry to profitability over quality.
Some of the most important food safety issues of concern include:-
- Food borne illnesses
- Food contaminants
- Antibiotic resistance
- Pesticide residues
- Environmental effects
ROLE OF GOVERNMENT, FOOD PRODUCERS, MARKETERS, CONSUMERS AND ACADEMIA
Every level of government in any country has a role to play in ensuring safety and quality of food. At the national level, the government has international responsibilities in regard to bi-lateral trade to and from other countries.
The policy makers and food control agencies must make sure that adequate food control legislation are in place to enable control of all food risk factors as well as consumer protection. The laws in place should be in place to meet the requirements of current food risks needs and not be detailed to be incomprehensible; or scattered among rules and other policy documents so that there be transparency and easy understanding of the rules.
In addition, the government is also responsible for adequate funding of the pre-market approval process and monitoring operations that are designed to make sure that the food legislate needs are met.
With the continual increase in the world’s population and urbanization, food chains and webs have been increasingly complex. Thus; assuring food safety and quality calls for adequate knowledge and ability by all food business players to meet and exceed the basic food safety laws. However, this requires the creation and implementation of food quality systems that ensure basic composition, nutritive value and safety of food.
Every food producer is tasked with the responsibility of ensuring safe end products at the table of the consumer. Right from ingredients used, how produced is handled, product packaging, distribution and marketing should be the core main concern of any food producer.
How a produce is handled for marketing/ distribution really determines its safety. How the produce is packed and transported also matters in terms of its safety. How the food is sold or where also has either a positive or negative effect to its safety. Food distributors/ marketers need to be sure of how they present a produce to the consumers. Food products are very sensitive and delicate and if poorly handled at the market and distribution stage the effects would be immerse.
The academia has critical role to play in the research into food quality and safety problems. At the primary and secondary school level, approved curriculum should also include education on the value of foods, importance of balance diets in proper nutrition.
DEVELOPMENT OF FOOD CONTROL SYSTEMS
The attainment of food control systems aims requires the knowledge of the current situation and development of national control strategy that are influenced by current or emerging food safety and qualities issues. It is key to examine all the factors that could impinge upon aims and performance of the systems while coming up with the food control strategies.
The governing principles guiding the development of food control systems comprising of:-
- Maximizing risk reduction by applying the principle of prevention throughout the food chain.
- Addressing the farm-fork continuum.
- Establishing emergency procedures for dealing with particular hazards.
- Developing science-based food control strategies.
- Establishing priorities based on risk analysis and efficacy in risk management.
- Recognizing that food control is a widely shared role that requires positive interaction between all stakeholders.
Development of Strategy
The preparedness of the national control system allows a country to develop an integrated, coherent, effective and dynamic food control system. This also allows, the determination of priorities that ensue consumer protection.
It should focus on multi-sectorial input and on the need for food security not forgetting consumers’ protection from unsafe adulterated / misbranded food. In addition, the strategy should also take into considerations the economic interest of the country in reference to export/ import trade, development of food industries and the interest of the farmers and food producers.
The strategy is influenced by the country stage of development, economy size and level of sophistication of its food industry.
The final strategy should include:-
- Development of appropriate food legislation or revision of the existing legislation to achieve its objectives defined by the national strategy.
- Development and organization of training programs for food handlers and processors, food inspectors and analysts.
- National strategy for food control with defined objectives; a plan of actions for its implementation and milestones.
- Program for strengthening food surveillance and control systems.
- Promotion of consumer education and other community initiatives.
- Development or revision of food regulations; standards and codes of practice as well as harmonizing these with international requirements.
The task of food control is shared among the different agencies, where their roles could be different. The key assignment of the food control is to enforce the food law(s) thus protecting the consumers against unsafe, impure and fraudulently presented food by illegalizing sale of food that is not of nature, quality, and substance as quested by the consumer .