As human beings we need to eat to live. It is therefore important that what we consume won’t cause us any harm. It is also important that the production of our food does not cause the environment any harm.

However, current industrial farming practices are seen as major causes of environmental issues. Issues such as, increased production of methane, a greenhouse gas from livestock production and deforestation through clearing of forests for farmland and ranches.

Food safety is the assurance that food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and eaten according to its intended use. Whilst sustainability refers to the need to develop the sustainable models necessary for both the human race and planet Earth to survive.

Both food safety and sustainability are concerned with the prevention of harm. Combining both principles would aid the food industry in reducing the stress that food production has on social and natural resources.  They are interrelated. In order for any innovative or sustainable technologies and practices to become economically viable for the industry; they need to most importantly, safely deliver products to the end-user.  

Food safety isn’t just a matter to be concerned about when eating out. It should be a consideration during the purchase, preparation and storage of food, in the home or when catering for events.  Food safety issues in Nigeria and Africa at large are mostly centred on poor hygiene. Resulting in ailments such as food poisoning, or more seriously the spread of diseases such as cholera and bacterial meningitis. 

All requirements relating to the safety characteristics of a food must be met; there must be no unacceptable health risk associated with a food. The assurance that a food will not cause harm, injury, or illness is determined by:

(1) Whether all harmful substances present in the food have been eliminated, reduced to an established acceptable level, or prevented from exceeding the acceptable level

(2) The food has been prepared, handled, and stored under controlled and sanitary conditions in conformance with practices prescribed by government regulations.

In addressing food safety, it is important to keep in mind that the term “food” covers any unprocessed, semi-processed, or processed item that is intended to be used as food or drink. This includes any ingredient incorporated into a food or drink, and any substance that comes into direct contact with a food during processing, preparation, or treatment.

Therefore, food quality and food safety principles and practices are applied to foods from farm produce and livestock production; manufactured and processed food products for consumers; and all raw materials, ingredients, processing aids, food-contact packaging materials, and food-contact surfaces that are used in the preparation of food and beverage products.

The scope of food safety covers foods already in the market place and new or modified foods. When new or modified foods are developed for the marketplace, quality and safety must be considered at the conception, design, and development stages.

It concerns me when I observe practices that clearly pose a danger to health. In subsequent posts I will be taking you through methods to sustain food safety as it is a key concern in our society.

I will cover issues ranging from food-borne disease, food standards, healthy eating, nutrition, consumers, and most importantly a food-borne illness report.

Food borne diseases are largely preventable. Though there is not a simple one step solution, like a vaccine. Preventing or limiting contamination of food is a major effort involving the farmers, processing plants and the public.  It should be a holistic approach from ‘farm to fork’.