When we talk about food security, we quite naturally focus on the idea that there should be sufficient
food for everyone. However, we tend to forget that food must also be safe and nutritious. In fact, if it
is not safe, it is no longer food and should not be consumed. But often people have to choose between safety, nutrition, and price, placing them at high risk of foodborne illnesses, cancer, or even death. Consumption of contaminated food has a long-term effect on people’s growth, development, and nutrient absorption, along with a higher risk of other illnesses.
Safe food is free of – or has safe levels of – harmful contaminants such as pathogenic microorganisms, natural toxins, undeclared allergens, foreign material, and chemicals. If food handling, production, transport, and storage are not carried out under controlled hygienic conditions, it can lead to food contamination and thus wasted resources, which further reduces food availability.
The food industry has put safety high on the agenda over recent decades. However, the global effect of foodborne illness is still substantial. One in 10 people worldwide become sick from foodborne illness every year and 420,000 die annually as a result, according to the World Health Organization. The burden falls heavily on poor and young populations: In Africa, a third of liver cancer cases are caused by acute aflatoxin exposure from contaminated crops.