About 200 food safety officials and experts from 50 countries are meeting in Zimbabwe this week to form a plan to prevent food borne diseases on the continent. The UN World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization sponsor the first-ever Regional Food Safety Conference for Africa.
Peter Benembarek is a food safety expert for the WHO. From Harare, he spoke to English to Africa reporter Joe De Capua about the four-day conference. He says, “It’s important and it comes at this point in time because there is an increasing recognition that food safety is an important public health issue. And FAO and WHO have taken the lead in address food safety issues in coordinated manners between the health and food production sectors."
As for the problems faced by the continent, Mr. Benembarek says, “Africa like other regions of the world has a large burden of food borne diseases. WHO estimates for example for Africa there’s approximately 700,000 deaths a year from food and water borne diarrhea only, which amounts to about 2,000 deaths per day.”
Other diseases associated with a lack of food safety include cholera and salmonella. Asked how difficult it would be to form an Africa-wide Strategic Plan of Action for Food Safety, he replied, “It is important to have a coordinated strategy for the whole region and a plan of action for the region because there the countries will agree on which action needs to be put in place at the national level, regional level, sub-regional level in actions to protect the consumer health and develop better trade opportunities for the region.”
Ways to ensure food safety include having a rigorous regulatory system for the country and food control and food inspection systems.”