Safe food refers to food that does not cause harm to its consumer if it is handled, prepared and or eaten in the way it was intended. Food refers to any nutritious substance that animals or people eat or drink or that which plants absorb to maintain life and growth. Nutritious food refers to food that contains and provides substance/nutrients necessary for the body to be healthy. Health refers to general well-being.
Diets must include foods that are both nutritious and safe in order to promote human health: they must allow people to achieve (without exceeding) nutrient requirements while also avoiding food-borne illness. Currently, this is not the case for a bigger part of the world as people do not understand the role safe food plays in ensuring human health.
Role of food safety in ensuring human health
Prevention of food borne illnesses and associated deaths
When food and food substances are contaminated, they may cause food borne illnesses to their consumers. Around 600 million people around the world fall ill each year from eating food contaminated with chemicals, bacteria, virus and or toxins. According to FAO 2019, up to 420,000 of them die as a result of these illnesses. Further, the impact of consuming unsafe food is unequal in different regions and ages.
For instance, while children represent 9% of the world’s population, they carry 40% of the total food borne illness burdens. It is estimated that 75% of the deaths from illnesses resulting from unsafe food deaths occur within low and middle –income communities, with Africa and South-East Asia carrying 70% of the global weight. This becomes a worrying trend as the global demand for food production goes higher resulting from the growing population. To combat this, we all ought to play our part in ensuring food safety from field to fork.
When food is safe, we remain healthy.
Addressing Malnutrition and Food Security
Over one billion people globally suffer from hunger and nutrition and yet studies prove that global farm produce is able to cater for its current capacity. The mismatch can be attributed to the quality and safety of the farm produce. If we are unable to produce high quality produce, it’s bound to get bad quickly. And its soon thrown out without having fed and reached the marginalized people.
Besides, if the food is unsafe for our consumers, it either gets thrown out or causes illness upon consumption and thus we fail to provide food to those who need it. Besides, food-borne illness, can raise the risk of malnutrition. Many food-borne infections cause acute gastrointestinal (stomach) issues, such as loss of appetite, vomiting, and/or diarrhea, which can result in decreased nutrient intake and/or absorption.
Most of the foods hailed to pack highest nutrients such as fruits, vegetables, dairy and dairy products and seafood are more susceptible to contamination and occurrence of hazards. If then, safety is to be ignored, they fail to serve their purpose of nourishment.
Consumer behavior is very intimately tied to food safety and nutrition. Consumers have a variety of trade-off considerations, including food safety, price, convenience, desirability, and traditional beliefs. Consumers are frequently concerned about the safety of certain foods (for example, fresh vegetables and fruits, as well as animal-sourced foods), particularly for pregnant and breastfeeding moms, as well as young children. Because consumers may prefer the cheapest and most convenient foods, which are often main staples and possibly highly processed and packaged foods, this perspective may increase the risk of malnutrition (both under-nutrition and over-nutrition).
In many instances, people have tried to differentiate safe food from nutritious food but it is evident that it can’t be called food if it’s not nutritious. Further, it would be wrong to call it food if it causes harm. One can thus say it’s not food if it’s not safe. We should recognize the vast importance that food plays in human health and create integrative food systems that focus on its nutritive value and safety if we are to achieve food security and general human well-being. For long, food safety has been viewed as a component of expanding agriculture and trade but this view ought to change.
Food safety is an essential feature of public health.