Food & Water Safety Certification

Food safety is a fundamental component of food security: According to the Rome declaration of the World Food Summit “food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO, 1996). Food safety and security are intrinsically linked with the safety and availability of water, a crucial input into production of food, both pre and post harvest. Moreover food and water safety affect the livelihoods of poor producers and consumers through two major channels: health and market access.

The Food and Water Safety research team at IFPRI suggests that poverty cannot be reduced and health and nutrition outcomes cannot be improved without investing research efforts that improve policymakers’ understanding of:

  • The impacts of production and consumption of unsafe food and water on the livelihoods of the poor;
  • The role of food and water safety in food security, and the potential trade-offs between food safety and security;
  • The impacts of food safety standards on the poor’s access to markets, and hence on their livelihoods;
  • The efficient and effective institutional mechanisms that can facilitate poor producers to appropriate the benefits of producing safe food (e.g., certification) as well as those that can facilitate poor producers’ access to markets (e.g., cooperatives, contracts);
  • The cost-effective control strategies that can be undertaken by both poor producers and consumers to minimize food and water safety risks;
  • The effective and efficient methods of communication and information sharing regarding food and water safety risks and strategies to minimize these.

The principal goal of this research sub-theme is to provide evidence-based information on the cost-effectiveness of risk control technologies to reduce the food and water safety hazards, including plant and animal health concerns, in developing countries; to understand the constraints to the adoption of these technologies and to recommend solutions for amelioration of these constraints. By doing so it is expected that cost-effective risk reducing strategies can be implemented to minimize the health risks and to improve the market access of the poor.

Food and water safety and food security

Area 1: To understand the dynamic relationship between food and water safety, and food security and how these relationships can be influenced through appropriate institutional mechanisms and technologies

The objective of this research is to understand the dynamic relationship between water quality (whether wastewater used for irrigation; irrigation water polluted with industrial pollutants, or potable water contaminated with arsenic) and food safety. IFPRI sees three linkages of water quality to food safety. First, there are linkages of water quality with food safety in terms of production and processing of food with wastewater or with water that is contaminated with pollutants. Second, there are linkages of water quality with inputs to food production such as chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides) and livelihoods assets such as soil quality. Third, there are linkages of water consumed with health and nutrition outcomes.

Research questions

  • What are the links between water quality and food safety and its linkages with health and nutrition outcomes?
  • Do developing country consumers have significant demand for safe food and water? What are their current awareness levels regarding food and water safety risks? Would consumers be willing to pay a price premium for ensuring good quality and safe food and water? What are the best mechanisms for communication of these risks and strategies for their minimization?
  • What is the baseline risk associated with using poor quality or contaminated water or other types of inputs (pesticides, fertilizers and soil) which are known to have a potential risks for food production?
  • What are the pro-poor cost-effective control measures for reducing risks associated with using poor quality water for irrigation, drinking and cooking? What is preventing producers and consumers from adopting such control measures?

Hypotheses

The hypotheses to be tested in this research are:

  • The baseline risk associated with using poor quality water (e.g., wastewater or water contaminated with industrial pollutants) in production of food is high.
  • There are linkages between water quality, health, nutrition and other livelihood outcomes.
  • As a result of market failures, such as lack of information and unrecognized demand for safe food and water, current levels (quality and quantity) of water use are inefficient.
  • There are pro-poor cost-effective solutions to risk reduction.
  • If cost-effective solutions were adopted they would reduce foodborne diseases, malnutrition and poverty.
  • There is an increasing awareness among consumers on the risks of adverse health effects associated with the use of poor quality water for irrigation and direct consumption, they would be willing to pay higher prices for safer food which minimizes these risks.

Research approach and methods that may be used

The risk analysis will involve the following activities:

  • identifying the hazard that may cause harm through pathways for poor quality water that may cause a food safety risk;
  • conducting quantitative risk assessments;
  • collecting data on the cost of control measures and analyzing the costs and benefits of the identified control measures;
  • analyzing the cost-effectiveness of control measures for the poor.

Next economic valuation methods will be used (i.e., non market valuation methods) to inform efficient and effective water management policies and plans. Economic valuation methods can be employed to capture farmers’, consumers’, or public’s willingness to pay (WTP) for higher quality water. The estimated WTP value, when aggregated over the relevant population, represents total economic benefits of improved inputs, which could then be weighed against the costs of investments in infrastructure or control measures which can provide higher water quality.

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