“Food Security, Food Safety and Food Systems” Training for Journalists

PHNOM PENH: On Thursday, 15th-June 2022 a training workshop for journalists on food security, food safety, and food systems is taking place at the Cambodiana Hotel.

The workshop was co-organized by Cambodia (CamboJA), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO Cambodia), Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Consumer Protection Competition and Fraud Repression Directorate-General (CCF) Ministry of Commerce.

In the afternoon, participants will visit the vegetable growing of farmers in Saang District, Kandal Province, and visit the Vegetable Packaging Center at the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries of Kandal Province.

Everyone has the right to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food. Food safety and nutrition are inextricably linked. Safe food is essential to human health and well-being. Only when food is safe can we fully benefit from its nutritional value and from the mental and social benefits of sharing a safe meal. Nutritious foods are safe foods that contribute essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals (micronutrients), fibre, and other components to healthy diets that are beneficial for growth, health, and development, guarding against malnutrition.

Improving food safety standards and regulations and enforcing their implementation is essential to safeguard the health and nutrition of the population. Improved food safety will contribute to improved nutritional status and will contribute to the reduction and prevention of many non-communicable diseases. There cannot be healthy diets without food safety. The nutritious foods that contribute to healthy diets, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, legumes, animal-sourced foods such as meat, dairy and eggs, and seafood are the foods that can be one of the most susceptible commodities to food safety hazards.

Unsafe foods are the cause of many diseases and contribute to other poor health conditions, such as impaired growth and development, micronutrient deficiencies, non-communicable or communicable diseases, and mental illness. Every year, 600 million people fall sick as a result of around 200 different types of foodborne illness. The burden of such illness falls most heavily on the poor and the young. In addition, foodborne illness is responsible for 420,000 preventable deaths every year.

Food systems shape people’s dietary patterns and nutritional status. Food systems are complex and multidimensional webs of activities, resources, and actors involving the production, processing, handling, preparation, storage, distribution, marketing, access, purchase, consumption, and loss and waste of food, and the outputs of these activities, including social, economic and environmental outcomes. All actors and activities in the food systems must consider the safety and nutritional quality of foods for providing safe and healthy diets. Safety and nutritional quality of foods need to be tackled along the entire agri-food value chain, from on-farm practices, and use of agricultural inputs (e.g., safe water, high-quality fertilizers, plant protection products, etc.), through production, harvesting, processing, storage, distribution, and preparation to consumption.

Our behaviour, the way we build food systems, and how we organize food supply chains can prevent infectious and toxic hazards, microbial pathogens (bacteria, viruses, and parasites), chemical residues, biotoxins, and other noxious or dangerous substances from getting onto our plates.

We need to transform food systems to deliver better health, and we need to do so in a sustainable manner. Food systems policy-makers, practitioners, and investors should reorient their activities to increase the sustainable production and consumption of safe foods to improve health outcomes. To make safe and healthy diets accessible for all, applicable agricultural, food, trade, and industry development policies need to promote food safety. Systemic changes for better health will bring safer food, which is a critical enabler of long-term human development and a prerequisite for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

While COVID-19 has not been transmitted by food, the pandemic has sharpened the focus on food safety-related issues, such as hygiene, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, climate change, food fraud, and the potential benefits of digitalizing food systems. It has also identified weaknesses or vulnerabilities in food production and control systems. For the immediate future, minimizing disruptions in the food supply chains remains one of the highest priorities of all governments, as consumers must have reliable access to food.

Food safety is a complex challenge in Cambodia. Both imported and locally-produced foods are contaminated with pesticides or other pollutants and bacterial contamination is commonly found in animal source foods. Overuse and misuse of antimicrobials are common and are believed to have contributed to the emergence of resistance against a variety of antimicrobial drugs. Despite impressive progress in addressing food security and nutrition challenges in the country, the food security and nutrition status across Cambodia and for different demographic and socio-economic groups remains uneven. There is an ongoing challenge in ensuring food accessibility and dietary diversity, especially among the rural poor, pregnant women, and children under five.

The Royal Government of Cambodia has taken and adopted a wide spectrum of policies, strategies, and action plans to improve the quality and safety of foods, and the nutritional status of the population, in particular the marginalized people including women and children.

“Safer food, better health”​ is the theme for 2022 World Food Safety Day. The 2022 campaign will focus on how safer food can improve health and well-being, not only our physical health but also that of animals and the environment. World Food Safety Day will be celebrated in Cambodia on 29 or 30 June 2022. 2022 marks the year that Cambodia will pass its Food Safety Law, as committed at the Nutrition for Growth Summit and the 2021 National Nutrition Day. National Nutrition Day in 2022 is also expected to be a celebration of food safety-nutrition linkages.

Food safety is everyone’s responsibility and therefore everyone’s business. Consumers have the power to drive change. They need to be empowered to make healthy food choices for themselves and support sustainable food systems for the planet. Given the complexity of food safety, consumers need access to timely, clear, and reliable information about the nutritional and disease risks associated with their food choices. Internet and social media play an important role in consumers’ dietary decision-making, thus the information about food safety must be clearly and reliably communicated. In this respect, journalists play crucial roles to improve food safety communication. The provision of timely, clear, and reliable information will help consumers make safer food choices and encourage actors along the entire agri-food value chain to strengthen food safety controls.

Photo by: FAO Cambodia