Development Dialogue: Improving Global Food Safety

The World Health Organization estimates that each year, at least 2 billion people worldwide become ill as a result of food poisoning and contamination of the food supply chain. Poorly handled food and unsafe practices can also cause millions of people to die, including many children. Food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances is responsible for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers. As the world population is projected to climb to over 9 billion by 2050, the demand for food will continue to rise. Furthermore, higher incomes and increasing urbanization trends are likely to transform food consumption patterns, and increase demand for animal products and more readily accessible and processed food. However, food availability alone does not guarantee food safety. 

This conversation seeks to catalyze thoughtful discussion about global food safety, highlight best practices in food safety capacity building across the world, and seek new ways of ensuring that people all over the world have access to a safe food supply and are in a better position to address challenges.

Juergen Voegele, Senior Director, Agriculture Global Practice, World Bank Group, Moderator, on why global food safety is a critical issue. 

 

The World Health Organization estimates that each year at least 2 billion people worldwide become ill as a result of food poisoning and contamination of the food supply chain. Food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances is responsible for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea  to cancers. Food safety outbreaks have can significant public health impacts, as well as potentially devastating market consequences. When food products are recalled, millions of dollars are lost, reputations are at risk, and markets react negatively.

As the world population is projected to climb to over 9 billion by 2050, the demand for food will continue to rise. Furthermore, higher incomes and increasing urbanization trends are likely to transform food consumption patterns, and increase demand for animal products and more readily accessible and processed food. However, food availability alone does not guarantee food safety. The consequence of having an increasingly global and interconnected food supply chain is that the likelihood of having food safety incidents is increased. More frequently we are learning how food safety problems affect people, and disproportionately impact the lives and livelihoods of poor people. This year, World Health Day will be celebrated on April 7, and it will serve as a reminder of the importance of food safety to human well-being and serve as a launch pad for a global public awareness campaign on this important topic. 

The World Bank launched the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) in 2012, a unique public-private initiative dedicated to improving food safety systems in middle-income and developing countries for the purpose of reducing risks to consumers, improving public health, promoting economic growth and ending poverty. I am pleased to host a group of distinguished panelists for this two-week Development Dialogue on this Striking Poverty platform on global food safety and open up the discussion to the widest possible group of experts and stakeholders. 

I hope you will take time to share your experience, wisdom and thoughts. Here are a few questions to get us started: What works in food safety capacity building? What can be done differently? What should we do more of? How are food security and food safety connected? What is the value of a partnership such as the GFSP? What can we do to persuade more stakeholders to come to the table around this global issue, which is all too often neglected until a crisis hits or a product is recalled? Who needs to take action and why? 

I look forward to a substantive conversation that, like the topic of food safety itself, transcends national boundaries. Spread the word and join us in moving the discussion forward.

Samuel Godefroy, Adj. Professor Food Risk Analysis and Food Systems, U. Laval, Québec, QC., and Senior Partnership Coordinator, Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), Agriculture Practice, World Bank, on the case for enhancing food safety capacity building

Prior to joining the GFSP in March 2015, Samuel Godefroy was the Director General of Health Canada’s Food Directorate and continues to be an Adjunct Professor of Food Risk Analysis and Food Systems at University Laval, Québec City Canada​. Samuel served as Vice Chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the international food standard setting body from 2011 to 2014. During his tenure, Samuel led the development and facilitated the adoption by consensus of the organisation’s strategic plan for 2014-19.

Dr. Godefroy currently serves as a scientific and food regulatory expert on a number of bodies and committees domestically and internationally, including on the International Advisory Committee of the China Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA) and on the Ministerial Advisory Board for Canada’s Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). Samuel authored over 50 scientific publications and book chapters, serves on a number of international editorial boards of scientific journals related to food safety and nutrition and acts as an instructor on food risk analysis and food regulatory measures in a number of universities.

Dr. Godefroy received his Ph.D. in Analytical Chemistry from the University of Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris VI). He holds degrees in Chemistry, Biochemistry and Chemical Engineering from the same University and from the École Nationale Supérieur de Chimie de Paris, France. 

Samuel: Access to clean water and clean air is a fundamental human right. Similarly, access to safe food is another necessity. Food safety is a condition for food availability and therefore for food security.

Beyond the clear public health benefits expected as a result of compliance with food safety requirements, enhanced food safety is a prerequisite to consumer confidence and therefore to market access. Consumers around the world demand access to safe food and are increasingly aware of and sensitive to existing and emerging food safety risks. Food and food products are also amongst the most traded commodities domestically and internationally. Safety of food products is therefore a condition for economic development and prosperity.

The case for upgrading food safety practices globally and across the entire supply chain, from farm to fork, is self-evident and does not require further demonstration. As the World Health Organisation is dedicating the focus of World Health Day on April 7th, 2015 to food safety, it is important to highlight the need for more efforts and resources to food safety capacity building initiatives globally, if we are to achieve public health and human development goals across the world.

The Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), initiated in 2012 with the endorsement of a broad spectrum of partners and stakeholders (governments, industry and international organisations) is a unique opportunity to help achieve these goals. The unique public-private nature of this partnership model aims to enhance coordination and alignment, to act across the entire food supply chain, to ensure consistency of dissemination of food safety practices, and to magnify impacts of existing efforts in food safety capacity building. The objective is to lead to sustainable access to capacity building resources for all stakeholders and partners in middle and low-income countries that help convergence with international food standards and therefore contribute to protect consumers’ health and prevent impediments in the food trade globally.

Dr. Paul B Young, Senior Director, Food & Environment Business Operations, Waters Corporation, on the importance for the availability of nutritious and safe food. 
 

Paul Young obtained a bachelor’s degree from The University of Ulster and a PhD from The Queen’s University Belfast. In March 2007 he took a position with Waters Corporation in Massachusetts, USA. Waters is a leading provider of technology based solutions employed in food safety testing. Prior to joining Waters, he had been employed by the UK Government in the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARDNI) for more than 25 years, ensuring compliance with EU food safety regulations.

During his time in government service, he also supported the Food and Agriculture Organisation/IAEA Joint Division, offering advice to developing countries. He has organised and delivered training on food safety management in numerous developing countries in Asia and Latin America on behalf of both the European Commission and private industry. Additionally, he supported the EU Commission, Food and Veterinary Office (FVO) as a designated national expert during audits of third country food safety systems.

He remains passionate about promoting capacity building measures for laboratories involved in food safety analysis and supported the establishment of the International Food Safety Training Laboratory, which involves a public/private partnership between Waters Corporation, JIFSAN (within University of Maryland) and FDA. He is the returning co-chair of the GFSP's Food Safety Technical Working Group.

Paul: A number of years ago during a US Senate HELP Committee meeting on food safety, Senator Mike Enzi stated, "Half of all Americans take a prescription drug daily. One hundred percent of them eat." Senator Enzi's statement served to accurately illustrate the relative importance of food safety in America, but if his statement was considered in a global context, it is, unfortunately, not a universal truth that 100 percent of global citizens eat on a daily basis. 

Few things have such a profound impact on the sustenance and quality of life as the ready availability of nutritious, safe food. Indeed it's ironic that the very salvation from the food scarcity crises that was looming in the middle of the 20th century, the so-called 'Green Revolution', is in part directly linked to many of the food safety (and environmental) issues that we struggle with today. Increased farming intensification, increased use of agricultural chemicals and globalization of supply chains led to increased yield and distribution of food, but the ability to produce more food wasn't always accompanied by the knowledge or technical capacity to manage the risks this production brings. There's no doubt that the Green Revolution did much to alleviate hunger, but if much of the food produced is still excluded from international trade then more needs to be done to leverage the production gains to alleviate poverty.

Perhaps the time is now right for The Green Revolution: Part II?

In this sequel there will be an expanded cast of characters with a broadening range of responsibilities. Governments will play a starring role, balancing food imports with food exports in a global market place, simultaneously seeking to protect both citizens and market access by ensuring that inbound and outbound foods are compliant in equal measure. The food industry must play their part sharing their experience of best practices gained in their quest of protecting both consumer and their brands. They will gain by improved market access and deeper more robust supply chains. Both inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations will play leading roles facilitating knowledge transfer to emerging economies.

Even technology companies such as Waters Corporation will have a supporting role to play in education and deploy purposeful technology solutions. These testing methods need to be sensitive enough to detect contaminants at low levels, yet selective enough to offer protection from false findings. The payback for companies such as Waters may not seem so obvious, but in part the solution will require an expansion of technical capability in emerging markets. These will be new customers whose challenges may differ from our existing customers in developed markets. If we can understand their problems better, we can deliver better solutions that will inevitably make us more successful in those markets.

Like all great movies, this represents a cast of disparate characters who must find ways to work together in order to fulfill their mission. In this new sequel, there will be no losers. Success will be measured by ensuring the safety of the food supply for families all over the world and opening access to world markets for the 70 percent of the world's poor who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.

Frederik Vossenaar, Program Manager Food Security, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Department of Agriculture, on the importance of hyper-connectivity for building food safety capacity. 

 

Mr. Vossenaar is a senior staff of the Agro Business Development Unit of the Ministry of Economic Affairs of The Netherlands, a unit that promotes Dutch trade relations and investments in countries outside of the European Union. Previously, he was Manager of the Climate-Smart Agriculture Program of the same Ministry. Frederik has extensive experience in the Foreign Agricultural Service of the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality. In his different professional capacities, he has lived in France, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, and Argentina. He was accredited to OECD in Paris as Permanent Representative for Agriculture, and represented The Netherlands in various international organizations. In his foreign service career, Vossenaar has served as Head of the International Nature Management Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Nature Management and has been responsible for Dutch policies on International Nature Management. Frederik Vossenaar holds a degree from Wageningen University, with majors in agricultural economics, international relations, and agricultural development. 

Frederik: According to FAO estimates, the world will need to produce 70% more food by 2050 to feed a world population of 9 billion people. Increasing productivity is the key subject of many policy papers on food security. It is remains however hard to overestimate the importance of food safety in this context. What good are these products if they endanger public health? And there is much more to this.

The Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products in the world. Being an importer of raw materials enables us to achieve this. In the port of Rotterdam the globalization of trade in agricultural products is visible every day. Better logistics and higher demand for food products will keep this trend going.

Since import tariffs worldwide are being reduced, there are real opportunities for countries to benefit from this growing trend. Exporting countries, particularly developing nations, may have a hard time complying with the food safety requirements of importers. They must comply with legal Codex-based requirements and many retailers, in order to be competitive, go beyond these by setting their own private standards.

Globalization is driven by hyper-connectivity and this is where the opportunity to assist farmers, traders and food safety officers lies. Think about it: with a hand held device a farmer can get accurate information about the proper use of chemicals and ways to access markets. People can get trained all over the world without the need to sit in a classroom. For instance, the Netherlands supports electronic certificate programs in sanitation, plant health and veterinary services to name just a few. E-certificates are much cheaper than certificates earned in a classroom setting. It has never been easier to deliver training and information to those who need it most. The key, for donors and private sector investors, is to make technology available to all those involved in the food value chain.

Caroline Smith DeWaal, Director of Food Safety Program, Center for Science in the Public Intereston engaging consumers to build robust food systems.

Caroline Smith DeWaal is the director of the food safety program for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and co-author of "Is Our Food Safe? A Consumer’s Guide to Protecting Your Health and the Environment" (Three Rivers Press, 2002). Ms. DeWaal has testified more than twenty times on food safety issues before the United States Congress. She has presented papers on food safety at over 100 scientific and public policy conferences and regularly publishes in scientific and legal journals. She has participated in a number of World Health Organization consultations on food safety, as well as FDA, USDA and CDC advisory panels. DeWaal is affiliated with the George Washington University as a lecturer, and serves on numerous boards and committees (listed below). She graduated from the University of Vermont and Antioch School of Law.  

Leadership roles:

World Health Organization Expert Advisory Group on Integrated Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance, 2009 - present; Codex Alimentarius, representing the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations, 2000 - present (President, International Association of Consumer Food Organizations, with status to make interventions from the floor); Equitable Food Initiative, 2008- present, Board of Directors (in formation); PAPSAC, John F. Kennedy School of Government (Harvard), 1998 – present (Board of Directors since 2014); Alliance for a Stronger FDA, (Board of Directors, former Treasurer); International Association of Food Protection, 1998- present, (Chair, International Professional Development Group); Transatlantic Consumer/Government Dialogue, Co-Chair, Food Committee, 2002- present; Food and Drug Law Journal Editorial Board, 1999-2005 (Chair of the Editorial Advisory Board, 2004-2005)

CarolineA dancer confined to a wheel chair; a son testifying before the U.S. Congress about his mother, who survived cancer but died from contaminated peanut butter; doctors fighting to save the lives of children sickened by a toxic pesticide in their school lunch.

These are consumers facing food safety failures around the world. The consequences of microscopic hazards in the food supply extend beyond the acute symptoms; they also cause miscarriage, kidney disease and even failure to thrive in children. But with clearer information and better practices, many of these consequences could be prevented.

Consumers are key players in food safety. In all countries, consumers must cook, store and manage their food to prevent illnesses. In some countries, consumers must also boil their water and milk to eliminate pathogens.

Consumers also rely on the steps taken much earlier in the food chain, from those who grow and harvest the food to those who package, label and transport it. In addition, the role of governments in protecting consumers is very important. 

Consumer representatives and other civil society players have worked together for decades in both developed countries and emerging economies to strengthen food safety, and in 2005, consumer organizations from every continent gathered at the World Health Organization to develop a set of principles. (See Guidelines to Promote National Food Safety Systems, available here). 

They agreed on eight essential elements for an effective food safety program: food laws and regulations; foodborne disease surveillance and investigation systems; food control management; inspection services; recall and tracking systems; food monitoring laboratories; information, education, communication, and training; funding and affordability of the national food safety program.

Jairo Romero, International Food Safety Risk Management Expert and member of the International Union of Food Science and Technologyon the safety of domestic and international food supply. 

 

Food Engineer, M. A. in Education. 26 years of experience working in food safety. Expert in strengthening national food control systems and modernizing public and private food safety measures in accordance with Codex Alimentarius guidelines, he is also proficient in Food Safety Risk Management, Food defense, and GMP and HACCP implementation. He is the author of three books, one chapter and 43 articles, a presenter in more than 125 international workshops and technical meetings, and has served in 34 countries in America, Europe and Asia acting as independent expert or under temporary contracts with FAO, WHO, ILSI, AECOM, Nathan, ACTA, USAID, AECI, Fundacion Chile, Fondonorma Venezuela, Food Solutions Peru, 3M and others. Mr. Romero is currently an International Food Safety Risk Management Expert, and also consults on multilateral negotiation of SPS requirements. Past: President of Colombian Association of Food Science and Technology – ACTA, President Elect of Latin America and the Caribbean Association of Food Science and Technology (ALACCTA)’s Directive Council and member of the Governing Council of the International Union of Food Science and Technology – IUFoST.

Jairo: The dramatic changes in food production, distribution, and consumption associated with globalization of food trade, world population growth, intensive agriculture, mass catering and street food, among many factors, pose significant challenges to the safety of the domestic and international food supply. This is particularly problematic for developing countries and net exporters of foods and food products, whose economies can face serious difficulties to access or maintain global markets where strict food safety standards are required.

From the food science and technology perspective, assuring a safe food supply, a complex worldwide problem, requires sound science, proper education and close communication and collaboration among all stakeholders sharing responsibilities along the food supply chain. 

The International Union of Food Science and Technology, IUFoST, is recognized as providing global scientific leadership for food science and technology. In accomplishing its mission of strengthening global food science and technology for humanity, food safety and security have been for years one of IUFoST’s main drivers, as reflected by numerous projects and successful outcomes. 

In an effort to improve global food safety systems, the GFSP has requested IUFoST to lead the Global Food Safety Curricula Initiative. This initiative seeks to harness the power of education on food safety through a common core curriculum that that will ensure that best practices are being met and applied to food safety through the food science professionals trained in them.

New Question
What public-private coalitions are needed to overcome common barriers to improving food safety?