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New review provides framework for studying food systems to address food safety and nutrition

There is a need for better understanding of how food systems operate in order to effectively address food safety and nutrition in low- and middle-income countries, says a new review paper.

The review published in Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems (Apr 2021) proposes that countries and international institutions provide an atlas of food system maps for key food commodities. This will help to fill current knowledge gaps in food system mapping and governance.

The review by scientists from the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Greenwich, the University of Liverpool and the International Livestock Research Institute presents the state of knowledge on existing methods of studying food systems towards improving food safety and nutrition.

The review found that food systems analyses vary widely in scope and quality, with most concentrating on specific food commodities as opposed to adopting a whole-diet approach when looking at nutrition or assessing a range of infectious agents when looking at food safety.

In the area of food safety, in-depth assessments of food systems can complement risk analysis to identify risky behaviours, understand institutional settings and improve codes of practice and enforcement. There is a challenge, however, in the area of nutrition, as existing tools on nutrition and food systems science are not yet being merged. 

Addressing food safety and nutrition in low- and middle-income countries will require better understanding of the drivers of the food systems and incorporation of codes of practice and enforcement which ensure access to safe and nutritious food.

It is also important to recognize that food systems are integral to health and thus ensure that food systems policy is aligned with health policy. This calls for interdisciplinary research on food systems encompassing consumption behaviour, value chain analysis, policy analysis, nutrition science and gender research.

Citation

Alarcon, P., Dominguez-Salas, P., Fèvre, E.M. and Rushton J. 2021. The importance of a food systems approach to low and middle income countries and emerging economies: A review of theories and its relevance for disease control and malnutrition. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 5: 642635.

Photo credit: Pulses on sale alongside other food items in a local market in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ILRI/Geraldine Klarenberg)

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