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Food safety education in East Africa and the Caribbean

Lloyd’s Register Foundation are collaborating with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and academic partners to educate the next generation of food safety professionals in the developing world.

 

Vincent Doumeizel, director for Food Challenge at Lloyd's Register Foundation states that “Every year, contaminated food causes over 600 million cases of preventable illness and 420,000 deaths worldwide. Overwhelmingly, the physical and financial burden of foodborne diseases falls on individuals and governments in emerging countries.”
 
However relief efforts for foodborne diseases in the developing world are still critically underfunded - over the last seven years, on average, only 55 million USD was invested annually in food safety, compared to the 1 billion USD in development assistance provided each year for malaria prevention, despite the fact that foodborne diseases cause approximately same the number of deaths and almost 3 times the number of illnesses.

To urgently meet these evolving challenges and leverage new technologies to benefit food safety, partnerships at the national, regional and international level for capacity development are crucial.

Lloyd’s Register Foundation is collaborating with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) and the International Livestock and Research Institute (ILRI) in Kenya for a project that will increase food safety education in  East Africa and the Caribbean, to build food safety workforce capacity, leading to enhanced food safety, income and livelihood opportunities. 

 

 

Currently in low- and middle- income countries, the capacity for food safety risk assessment and risk management, hazard monitoring, food safety incident prevention and mitigation remains limited. There are not enough food safety professionals to both implement and control the necessary measures to prevent food from becoming unsafe. This represents a major obstacle to safe food production and thus a threat to human health and a barrier for trade.

In Africa, an estimated 137,000 lives are lost due to foodborne illness each year. Foodborne disease in the Caribbean is four times more prevalent than in Europe, and the public health burden is estimated at $21 million annually, more than the entire budget of some island nations.

Perhaps one of the most significant issues is that large corporations and certification bodies such as Lloyd’s Register are unable to carry out audits in these areas due to a lack of food safety professionals on the ground. This means countries will remain unable to meet the ever-growing consumer demands for food safety information and miss out on vital trade and tourism.

 

 

Lloyd’s Register Foundation is collaborating with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation to create a curriculum for universities to help bridge the gap in knowledge between emerging countries and the rest of the world, creating communities of food safety professionals and mitigating the impact of foodborne disease.

Professor Jeffrey LeJeune, food safety and quality officer at the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, is helping deliver the initiative. He said "food safety is critical for food security - if food is not safe, then it is not food. The whole premise of this project is to enhance food safety globally, and our approach is to build workforce capacity in developing countries so that they can ensure food in their own countries is safe."

The project aims to create strategic partnerships with universities in Tanzania, Uganda, South Sudan, Burundi and Rwanda in East Africa, and The University of Guayana and The University of the West Indies in seventeen English speaking nations across the Caribbean. It will then evaluate and identify the specific educational and cultural needs of the two regions and create a bespoke targeted undergraduate curriculum to meet them.

This means students will be better prepared to meet escalating occupational challenges and in the long term, the provision of better food safety intervention, surveillance, and governance will strengthen and improve the safety of food value chains, leading to enhanced livelihoods and a healthier society.

There are also long-term plans to use this project as a pilot with a view to roll out the initiative across all Africa.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has made the global need for food safety education absolutely transparent. Lloyd’s Register Foundation and the FAO are championing initiatives taking the first steps to create a global framework for food safety education, mitigating risk and saving lives. Our continued collaboration will be key to easing the burden of foodborne disease and ultimately making the world a safer place.

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