‘Is My Food Safe?’ – The State of Current Research on Food Safety

Vegetables for sale in wet market in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: J.Hodur/A4NH

“Is my food safe?” This question voices a fundamental consumer concern – regardless of where they live, what their income level is, or where they purchase their food. The demand for information on food safety, meanwhile, grows louder particularly among consumers in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) as they move towards cities and away from farms, growing more conscious of the quality of food they eat. But that information is rarely readily available, particularly in those countries.

Recognizing the universal nature of this question, the Agriculture, Nutrition and Health (ANH) Academy created a working group to consider current research on food safety, including metrics, tools, and definitions; identify areas of opportunity or need for additional research in this area; and suggest ways to make research on food safety in low and middle-income countries more robust and replicable.

The results of this effort are reported in a new working paper and related technical brief by the ANH Academy Food Safety Working Group, which we have co-authored with our colleagues. The conceptual framework we developed in the course of undertaking this work identifies three main areas of focus:

  • Foodborne hazards and risks, that consider private, public, and export standards;
  • Food safety system performance, which considers how well the food system delivers safe food; and
  • Foodborne disease outcomes, which look at the impact that the safety of foods has in public health and the economy, among others.

Supermarket in Hanoi, Vietnam. Photo: J.Hodur/A4NH

With such a wide scope and so many actors, it naturally follows that there is no one measure to comprehensively cover this issue, however, we also recognize the need for stakeholders to be able to measure and report on it to identify areas and means of improvement. An important component of the report offers principles to guide those designing and selecting appropriate food safety measures and metrics.


This post is excerpted from an article by ILRI scientists Delia Grace and Silvia Alonso. Read the whole article, including recommendations and issues of interest for decision makers, on the Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy website: Is my food safe?—The state of current research on food safety.

Read the technical brief by Delia Grace (ILRI), Paula Dominguez-Salas (ILRI), Silvia Alonso (ILRI), Anna Fahrion (WHO), Barbara Haesler (Royal Veterinary College), Martin Heilmann (FAO), Vivian Hoffmann (IFPRI), Erastus Kang’ethe (University of Nairobi), Kristina Roesel (ILRI) and Tezira Lore (ILRI), 2018. Food safety metrics relevant to low and middle income countries. Technical Brief. Agriculture, Nutrition and Health Academy Food Safety Working Group. Innovative Methods and Metrics for Agriculture and Nutrition Actions programme. London, UK.

Read the working paper: Food safety metrics relevant to low and middle income countries Working paperAgriculture, Nutrition & Health Academy Food Safety Working Group, April 2018.