Development Dialogue: Improving Global Food Safety : Challenge Profile

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. The consequence of having an increasingly global and interconnected food supply chain is that the likelihood of having food safety incidents is increased. Food safety outbreaks have can significant public health impacts, as well as potentially devastating market consequences. Increasingly, we are learning how food safety problems affect people, and disproportionately impact the lives and livelihoods of poor people. So alarming is this trend that this year’s World Health Day (April 7th) is dedicated to promoting food safety. The World Bank has also been on the forefront of this issue since 2012, when it launched the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP), a unique public-private initiative dedicated to capacity building to improve the food safety systems in middle-income and developing countries for the purpose of reducing risks to consumers, improving public health, promoting economic growth, and alleviating rural poverty.

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 the above-mentioned challenges. Below is a list of key questions intended to kick off the conversation:

  • How can we build resilience across the global food supply chain to successfully lower the risk posed by new and emerging pathogens, environmental hazards, and contamination during food processing?
  • National governments, the private sector, academia and consumer advocacy groups all have a role to play in building food safety capacity across the food supply chain. How can each contribute to better detect and promptly respond to foodborne disease outbreaks and food safety emergencies?
  • How can we minimize the risk of foodborne disease that can result from the interaction between animals, people and the environment?
  • What steps can the GFSP take to boost information and knowledge sharing about food safety?
  • Aquaculture is a key industry for many Asia-Pacific economies and the vast majority of businesses in these countries are small holder farms: how can disease prevention and food safety be addressed to secure economic growth and trade in this region of the world?