Importance of food security



May 15, 2022

Elsa Sc S focuses on a crucial issue

Trends in global food production, processing, distribution and preparation have presented new challenges to food safety. Food grown in one country can now be transported and consumed halfway across the world. People demand a wider variety of foods than in the past, they want foods that are not in season and often eat away from home. The integration and consolidation of agricultural and food industries and the globalisation of the food trade are changing the patterns of food production and distribution. These conditions are creating an environment in which both known and new foodborne diseases can become prevalent. Food and feed are distributed over far greater distances than before, creating the conditions necessary for widespread outbreaks of foodborne illness.
Other factors account for the emergence of food safety as a public health issue. Increasing urbanisation leads to greater requirements for transport, storage and preparation of food. Increasing wealth, an urban lifestyle and sometimes a lack of facilities mean that people eat much of their food away from home. In developing countries, food is often prepared by street vendors. In developed countries, up to 50% of the food budget may be spent on food prepared outside the home. All these changes lead to situations in which a single source of contamination can have widespread, even global consequences. Developing countries in particular are experiencing rapid change in their health and social environments, and the strains on their limited resources are compounded by expanding urbanisation, increasing dependence on stored foods are insufficient access to safe water and facilities for safe food preparation.
The globalisation of the food trade offers many benefits to consumers, as it results in a wider variety of high-quality foods that are accessible, affordable and safe, meeting consumers’ demands. A diversity of foods in a balanced diet improved nutritional status and health. The global food trade provides opportunities for food-exporting countries to earn foreign exchange, which is indispensable for the economic development of many countries. However, these changes also present new challenges to safe food production and distribution and have been shown to have widespread repercussions on health.
Food safety programmes are increasingly focusing on a farm-to-table approach as an effective means of reducing foodborne hazards. This holistic approach to the control of food-related risks involves consideration of every step in the chain, form raw material to food consumption and hazards can enter the food chain on the farm and can continue to be introduced or exacerbated at any point in the chain until the food reaches the consumer. New technologies, such as genetic engineering, irradiation of food, ohmic heating and modified atmosphere packaging, can be used to increase agriculture production, extend shelf life or make food safer. Their potential benefit for public health is great, for example, genetic engineering of plants has the potential to increase the nutrient content of foods, decrease their allegenicity and improve the efficiency of food production.
Most countries continue to expand the capacity to protect their populations from exposure to unacceptable levels of microorganisms and chemicals in food. Developing countries have many competing priorities in their health agendas and food safety has not, in the past, been recognised as a vital public health issue. The globalisation of the food trade and the development of international food standards have also raised awareness of food safety in developing countries. Many developing countries are poorly equipped to respond to existing and emerging food safety problems. They lack technical and financial resources, an effective institutional framework, trained manpower and sufficient information about the hazards and risks involved.
The National Quality Policy developed by the Pakistan National Accreditation Council (PNAC) is a good step forward though belated. It, however, lays down implementation/launching time frame ranging from 1-5 years, which is too long a period to meet the ensuing challenges emanating from the World Trade Organisation’s obligations. The policy has many flaws which need to be corrected. Giving one example, it would suffice to say that it does not adequately address the core issue of food safety in the context of global trade and protecting the local population from the hazards of contaminated food that is being marketed and sold with impunity by the food processing and catering industry including hotels and restaurants.
We have cases of food poisoning every day in various parts of the country but we do not budge to address this issue of public importance. The reason is very simple; we do not have in place effective and purpose oriented mechanism or the legislation regulating the operations of the catering companies and the establishments selling food to the consumers. As a consequence, they are selling all kinds of sub-standard food/confectionery products to the consumers thereby taking a heavy toll on the poor population. Objectively speaking, the PNAC itself is poorly equipped and not capable to deal with the gigantic task of Quality Control of the products and services. It is ill structured in terms of competence and paraphernalia to discharge functions of immense importance. We need to induct experts of professional attainments to make it a vibrant organisation to meet the challenges of quality assurance. TW

Elsa Sc S is doing her graduation from LUMS & a keen researcher


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