Ramping up investments in food safety, the 'Cinderella sister' of One Health

Delia Grace, an epidemiologist and veterinarian leading international research on food safety and zoonotic diseases in the developing world at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), in Kenya, and the Natural Resources Institute (NRI), in the UK, yesterday published a thought-provoking opinion piece:

Opinion: Food safety—too long the Cinderella sister of 'One Health', Devex, 26 Jul 2022.


'Bird flu, Ebola, COVID-19, and now monkeypox: The list of widely recognized zoonotic diseases continues to lengthen. Yet hundreds of millions of people in Africa are much more likely to get sick and die from the food they eat than the new and alarming diseases that can close down their economies.

'Many of the top foodborne diseases identified by the World Health Organization have their origins in animals, causing 135 million cases of illness a year in Africa, which is home to the world’s highest per-capita rate of foodborne illnesses. Not only does this hold back and burden African countries, but it adds to the threats to global health security.

'As the world increasingly accepts the need for an integrated “One Health” approach in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and as undernutrition continues to hold back human and economic development, investment in food safety improvements for lower-income countries must be ramped up.

With a burden comparable to malaria and HIV/AIDS, foodborne illness must be prioritized as a One Health issue that both impacts and is impacted by animal, human, and environmental health.

'Investing in prevention can bring down the human and economic toll of foodborne illness. . . .

'If such measures were fully adopted in Africa, they could reduce the continent’s 137,000 deaths per year as a result of contaminated food. These deaths and illnesses amount to an annual loss of $17 billion in productivity and $2.5 billion in treatment costs.

'Developing livestock vaccines that are cost-effective, stable, and scalable is no simple task, which is why the International Livestock Research Institute is partnering with animal health experts including the Global Alliance for Livestock Veterinary Medicines and Clinglobal to offer a one-stop shop for developing new and effective veterinary vaccines. . . .'

Grace makes a compelling argument that:

Since a landmark assessment of the global burden of foodborne disease was first published by WHO in 2015, scientific understanding of the health threats associated with food systems has rapidly increased. However, the issue remains grossly neglected at a policy level.

The African Union recently launched a new food safety strategy for Africa, but the reality is that a disease threat anywhere is a threat to public health everywhere.

Please go to Devex to read the full article:

Opinion: Food safety—too long the Cinderella sister of 'One Health', Devex, 26 Jul 2022.

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