International trade needs to prioritise food quality, safety, experts say


International trade is regarded as a very important tool for tackling hunger, however, there is need to ensure countries guarantee that globally traded food is of good quality, safe and healthy, according to José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

Speaking at the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade that ended on Wednesday, Graziano da Silva, noted that many countries depend heavily on food imports to guarantee the availability of food for their people. “Unfortunately, unhealthy ultra-processed food fares better in international trade in terms of transportation and conservation than non-processed food,” he said.

He noted that trade in such products has already contributed to a substantial increase in the proportion of obese people in countries that import most of their food, such as the Pacific and Caribbean Islands.

The FAO Director-General called on international community to advance the establishment of trade rules and regulations that encourage the consumption of healthy and nutritious foods. He also highlighted the role of unified food safety standards in ensuring fair trade practices.

“Food safety crosses across national borders. Food produced in one country today can, within 24 hours, be on the other side of the planet and on its way to shops, restaurants and homes,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Orgnization (WHO). “There is no such thing as food safety for the rich and another for the poor. The health of all people, no matter where they live and what they eat, must be protected equally,” he said.

For Roberto Azevêdo, WTO Director-General, “Access to safe food is crucial in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It is therefore imperative to discuss how food, health and trade policies can align to help deliver these shared goals.”

For food to be safe, it must also be healthy stressed Graziano da Silva, explaining that food safety cannot be only about preventing people from getting food poisoning or falling sick due to food-borne illnesses. Rather, it must also address multiple health risks associated with poor diets.