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AU and ILRI Develop Guidelines for Food Safety in Informal Markets

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The African Union (AU) and the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) have announced a partnership to develop guidelines aimed at improving food safety in Africa’s informal food markets.

These markets, which include street vendors, kiosks, and traditional market sellers, are vital for food security, employment, and livelihoods, particularly for the continent’s urban poor.

Despite their importance, food safety in Africa’s informal markets has been historically neglected or mismanaged, leading to an estimated 90 million cases of foodborne illness and $16 billion in productivity losses annually. In contrast, the international community invests just $55 million per year in food safety projects on the continent.

The new guidelines, developed in line with the AU’s Food Safety Strategy for Africa, seek to address the unique challenges faced by the informal food sector. They aim to provide practical guidance for governments to engage with the sector and transform it into a safer and more sustainable part of the food system.

John Oppong-Otoo, Food Safety Officer at AU-IBAR, emphasized the importance of these guidelines in upholding food and nutrition security as a human right. He expressed optimism that the guidelines would help governments work with the informal sector to ensure the safety and sustainability of the food supply.

Silvia Alonso, Senior Scientist Epidemiologist at ILRI, noted that traditional approaches to food safety, focused on compliance and documentation, are often not suitable for the informal sector, which lacks resources and regulation. She highlighted the need for tailored approaches to food safety management in Africa’s informal markets.

The guidelines are based on ILRI’s research and interventions across Africa, including initiatives in Burkina Faso and Kenya. They will be refined through consultation with informal sector actors and partners throughout 2024 and 2025, with the aim of presenting the framework to AU policy bodies for approval in 2025.

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