• Countries urged to increase investments for robust national food control systems
• The economic costs of food-related illnesses are estimated at $95.2 billion in lost productivity.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 91 million people in Africa fall ill from consuming contaminated food every year and 137,000 die as a result.
The global health agency says there is a need to adapt food control systems to meet changing needs for better protection of public health.
WHO representative to Kenya Rudi Eggers yesterday called on nations to strengthen measures to improve food safety.
Eggers spoke during the 23rd session of the Codex Coordinating Committee for Africa.
The economic costs of the food-related illnesses and deaths are estimated at $95.2 billion in lost productivity and $15 billion in medical expenses in low and middle-income countries.
Codex is an acronym referring to Food Law that governs the development of food standards at the international level.
The international standards set by the Codex are recognised by the World Trade Organization.
Currently Kenya has adopted more than 200 Codex standards to facilitate trade and to protect the health of consumers.
Compliance with Codex provides the reassurance that foods are being produced according to standards to ensure safety, nutritional adequacy and protection of human health.
Eggers said the integration and consolidation of agricultural and food industries, new dietary habits, the globalisation of the food trade and human movements are modifying the patterns of food production, distribution and consumption.
This, he said, has brought about new challenges.
“These measures include increased investments for robust national food control systems,” Eggers noted.
The WHO official noted that food safety has become a more important topic over the years due to its significance both from health and economic perspective.
“The ability to comply with product standards is an important factor in determining access to markets, and more broadly, the capacity of countries to export and involve smallholder farmers in commercial supply chains,” Trade CS Peter Munya said.
Munya noted that the continent’s economy is growing at an average of five per cent per year, and the middle-income group is expanding.
“A few countries have well-established farming, food manufacturing and retail sectors that cater for both the domestic and international markets,” he said.
The CS said that Africa’s agricultural potential is largely untapped, with approximately 60 per cent of the world’s non-cultivated arable land found in the Sub-Saharan region.
Kenya Bureau of Standards acting managing director Benard Njiraini said safe and quality food supply is necessary for better public health.
“It is also important for enhancing the competitiveness of foodstuff in the market locally and internationally,” Njiraini said.