EAST AFRICA – The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), are working on long-term strategies to alleviate the skills gap among food safety professionals.
A skilled workforce of food safety professionals familiar with the challenges, opportunities and regulatory frameworks of a country are essential to improve food safety, increase domestic and international trade opportunities and enhance the health of the population.
This need is especially critical in low and middle-income countries where foodborne diseases have a high social and economic cost. For example, it is estimated that over 137 000 people in Africa die each year from preventable foodborne illnesses.
“Many context-specific factors can either limit or enable the implementation of specific practices and actions that impact food safety. It is therefore critical that, when preparing food safety professionals, topics such as traditional knowledge and local culture find their place in the curriculum,” said Eleonora Dupouy, FAO Food Safety Officer.
With support from the Lloyd’s Register Foundation, FAO, represented by Food Safety Officers Jeffrey LeJeune and Eleonora Dupouy, and ILRI convened a workshop with the Inter-University Council of East African (IUCEA), and regional technical experts to establish benchmarks for undergraduate food safety programmes in the region.
Lloyd’s Register Foundation is an independent global charity with a unique structure and an important mission of engineering a safer world, by supporting high quality research, accelerating technology to application and through education and public outreach.
Following up on a recent survey of stakeholders from the East African Community Member countries comprising of the Republics of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania, the group mapped core competencies expected of food safety graduates, with specific learning objectives for knowledge; practical, cognitive and interpersonal skills as well as attitude.
These learning objectives were aligned with university courses that could prepare students to meet these objectives.
LeJeune noted that one unique aspect of the work is that it had identified skills and learning objectives for graduates that are both specific to the region and on the cutting edge of science.
“For example, experts prioritized the need to train students in a holistic or One Health approach, including skills in communication and behavioral sciences, to be able to address complex issues in food systems such as emerging foodborne diseases and the ability to adapt to new technologies and tools, such as bioinformatics, to predict, prevent, detect, control, and respond to foodborne disease threats,” he said.
The work is ongoing and will undergo further review prior to publication available to the public.
ILRI’s research is directed to improving food and nutrition security through increased production and access to animal-source foods.