Food Safety Investments in East Africa: Analysis and Recommendations (2021)
In East Africa, foodborne diseases remain a persistent challenge to consumers’ access to safe, nutritious diets, despite decades of investment in food safety projects by donors, governments and nongovernmental organizations in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. At present, most countries in East Africa have adopted food safety standards, and the East African Community is active in harmonizing standards among its member states. However, the standards remain largely unimplemented and, when implemented, can have unintended negative consequences on food access and livelihoods. In addition, certification programs often do not cover the informal value chains and fresh air markets where the majority of consumers in East Africa buy their food. The purpose of this report is to highlight investment needs for reducing the burden of foodborne disease across the region.
Funded through the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety, this report analyzes trends and patterns in food safety investments for countries in East Africa from 2010 to 2017. Authors Florence Mutua (International Livestock Research Institute), Delia Grace (International Livestock Research Institute/Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich) and Corey Watts (Global Food Safety Partnership/World Bank consultant) drew on the comprehensive database of food safety investments in sub-Saharan Africa compiled by the Global Food Safety Partnership, as well as literature reviews and their own experience researching food safety in the region. The dataset included a total of 59 food safety projects from 19 donors, with information and opinions from 30 key informant interviews. Projects were assessed for their location, duration and focus; success factors (acceptability, feasibility, sustainability, scalability, economic viability and incentive for behavior change) and the type of intervention (technologies, training, information, new processes, organizational arrangements, policymaking/regulations and infrastructure).
General trends included an increase in overall project numbers and investments over time, with Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda attracting more investment than the other countries. Aflatoxin mitigation and national control systems (labs, training, etc.) were the predominant project themes, and most projects focused on strengthening the food safety of exports but offered little benefit to the informal sectors that supply food to consumers in East Africa. Animal source foods, such as meat, fish and dairy, were addressed in most countries, but fresh produce was not a major food safety focus in any of the countries. In addition, projects prioritized pesticides over the biological hazards which cause orders of magnitude more sickness and death in East Africa. The lack of investment in research on Taenia solium (pork tapeworm) was notable, given the burden of cysticercosis in the region. Food safety policies that promote the formal sector can lead to reduced food access for consumers. The authors offer the following recommendations for future investment in food safety:
- Emphasize the hazards that cause the greatest domestic health burden, especially biological hazards
- Develop and expand disease surveillance systems
- Promote policies that are pro-poor and avoid unintended consequences
- Invest in longer-term projects with rigorous evaluation processes
- Streamline and better implement regulations — replace command and control with coregulation
- Increase the involvement of the private sector in improving food safety
- Investigate the potential of harnessing consumer demand for food safety
- Assess the food safety risks of individual countries to better prioritize needs and increase impact
The full report is available on the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Safety's website.