On Monday the 16th of October, South Africa and the Global World will come together to commemorate the World Food Day. This will be in remembrance of founding the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in 1945 as an organisation that deals with global food and agricultural issues by Khulekani Ngcobo, senior communicator at the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS).
World Food Day
As we commemorate the World Food Day in 2023, it is imperative that we reflect upon the global food landscape and consider the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. This year’s theme is; “Water is life, water is food. Leave no one behind”. It is true that water is essential part of life on earth. It covers the majority of the earth’s surface, makes up over 50% of our bodies, produces our food, and supports our livelihoods. However, this precious resource is not infinite and we need to stop taking it for granted. What we eat, and how that food is produced all affect water.
This year’s theme serves as a poignant reminder of the vital role food plays in our lives, our communities, and our planet. Hence, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) contribute to the World Food Day by ensuring that food products meet the necessary quality and safety standards.
The NRCS inspection system of the Food & Associated Industries Business Unit (FAI) is based on monitoring and surveillance of factories, processes, and products. FAI also conducts market surveillance inspections and participates actively in the border enforcement activities of the NRCS.
FAI assists role players to comply with local and international requirements and is recognized by authorities in various countries such as China, Russia, and the European Union (EU) as the competent authority for the inspection and issue of health guarantees of fish or fishery products destined for Europe. Hence, FAI works in close co-operation with other regulators of food safety and inspectors are authorized to carry out inspections on behalf of the Department of Health in terms of the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act.
Advocating for change
In a world where nearly 9% of the population still suffers from chronic hunger and millions more face food insecurity, World Food Day remains a critical platform for advocating change. The COVID-19 pandemic, along with climate change, conflict, and economic disparities, has only exacerbated these issues, making the need for collective action more pressing than ever.
Food security is not just about ensuring that there is enough food to go around. It is also about guaranteeing access to safe, nutritious, and culturally appropriate food for all. Food safety is of paramount importance to ensure food security and meet the required quality and safety standards.
Ensuring food safety help us to prevent foodborne illnesses, which can have severe health consequences. Contaminated or unsafe food can lead to outbreaks of diseases such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria which causes illnesses, hospitalisations and even deaths.
Therefore, this World Food Day, we must emphasize the need to shift towards more sustainable practices in agriculture, fishing, food safety standards and distribution. Safe food is essential for public health. When food safety measures are in place and followed, it reduces the risk of people getting sick from consuming unsafe or contaminated food products.
From an ordinary perspective, food safety is an essential part of food security. Only when food is safe can it meet nutritional needs and help adults to live an active and healthy life and children to grow and develop.
Promote climate-resilient agriculture
Also, climate change remains a significant threat to food security. Rising temperatures, extreme weather events and shifting precipitation patterns are already impacting crop yields and food production. As such, it is crucial to invest in climate-resilient agriculture, promote sustainable farming practices and reduce food waste to mitigate the effects of climate change on our food systems.
Furthermore, we must recognise that food security is intrinsically linked to social justice and gender equality. Women play a central role in food production and distribution, yet they often face discrimination and unequal access to resources. Empowering women in agriculture and addressing gender inequalities can significantly enhance food security and improve the well-being of our communities.
World Food Day is not just a day for reflection; it is a call to action. Hence, the NRCS calls on all food producers and consumers to develop a food safety culture, support food safety education programmes and practice safe food handling at home.
Individuals can contribute to the cause by making conscious choices about the food they consume. Minimising food waste and supporting local food producers are all actions that can make a difference.
As the Food & Associated Industries from NRCS remains the leading regulator for the administration and enforcement of the compulsory specification for processed meat products, it will continuously ensure the monitoring of their safety.
In conclusion, as we mark World Food Day 2023, let us remember that food is not just sustenance; it is a fundamental human right. Nourishing our future requires a concerted effort to address the root causes of food insecurity, promote sustainability and uphold the principles of justice and equality. Only through collective action can we build a world where no one goes to bed hungry and everyone has access to nutritious food that nourishes both the body and soul.