Food Safety in Southern Africa – Rethinking World Health Worries

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The theme for World Health Day, held on 7 April 2015, was ’From farm to plate – make food safe.’ The main motivation for the theme was the alarming amount of bacteria borne diseases across the globe, transmitted by eating food which is contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances.

Food safety relates primarily to problems of food insecurity on the continent. Many developing countries do not have the necessary agricultural yield required to feed all their citizens, rendering impoverished populations reliant on food parcels and sourcing unsafe food, which is often spoiled or bacteria ridden.

Access to food is a key area of inequity on the African continent and raises questions about how food relates to the social determinants of health. Who gets access to food? Why are obesity rates so high? Why is diabetes as a non-communicable disease such a risk?

Access to safe food is essential for keeping populations healthy and free of diseases. Unhealthy populations place strain on health systems, which, in most developing nations in Southern Africa, are already constrained by high levels of HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.

Food safety is also often overlooked in light of famine, starvation and malnutrition. Additional concerns include poor hygiene in poorer areas, a lack of access to clean water to wash food with and a lack of sanitation, which increases the risk of diarrhoeal diseases.

New food handling techniques, evolved as a result of globalisation, include a longer food chain, changes in technology and anti-microbial resistance.

These all increase the risk of food contamination. The overuse of antimicrobials such as antibiotics, essential to treating bacterial infections, has resulted in the spread of resistant bacteria and antibiotic resistance, highlighted by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the greatest global threats to health in the past year.

Source: allAfrica (link opens in a new window)

Health Care