Safe and Nutritious Food – 10 Principles of Food Sustainability

Hello FoodGrads! Last time we looked at what the 10 Principles of Food Sustainability are and how they were created by Cheryl Baldwin, Vice President of Consulting Pure Strategies. Now that you have a general overview of the principles we can begin to dive deeper into what they entail and how to apply them.

This week we are looking in depth at the first principle which is:

Safe and highly nutritious food is accessible and affordable to promote and support a healthy population

Safe and highly nutritious food is the responsibility of everyone in the food system. Yet for some reason it feels as though creating safe and nutritious food is a hard thing to do. You can have safe foods which are not highly nutritious like confectioneries and processed foods.

It seems as though we have a good grasp on food safety in North America but we could do better. This is essential for supporting a healthy population.

Food Safety

Food safety encompasses not only the prevention of gastro-intestinal illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses, but also the harm from chemical contamination and the ingestion of unwanted physical contaminant like plastics and glass.

There are many jobs in the industry that help to ensure that our food is safe for consumption.  These professions include quality control, quality assurance and food auditors.Under the Minister of Health, the Government of Canada has three organizations that are responsible for making sure food is safe. These include:

  • Health Canada
  • The Canadian Food Inspection Agency
  • The Public Health Agency of Canada 

However, there are many challenges that are preventing populations from getting safe food on the table.

The first challenge is that the food chain has become larger and more complex. Food travels all around the world and people can consume any product they want even if it is out of season. If problems arise in the chain it is becoming increasingly more difficult to pinpoint the point of introduction due to the long chains.

Now food pathogens can spread past a country’s border and into other nations.

The second challenge is that antibiotics resistance is slowly becoming a big problem. This usage can partly be blamed on our high usage of antibiotics in food animals. Bacteria are evolving to become more resilient to chemicals we are using to stop them.

How do we ensure that foods are safe?

There are already a lot of precautions put forth to help keep our food safe however this does not mean we shouldn’t keep pushing forward and looking for better systems.  Below are some suggestions from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

  • Periodic global and regional fora of food safety regulators: to exchange information and experiences on food safety risk management and to foster partnership alliances among countries to resolve standing issues related to food safety and trade
  • Comprehensive approach to food safety, animal and plant health: to foster increased synergy within an international regulatory framework;
  • International rapid alert on food safety hazards: to improve the effectiveness of world-wide information exchange and expeditious response
  • Development of appropriate technologies throughout the food chain: to enhance the quality and safety from farm (and sea) to the table of the consumer, through human resource development in rural development planning, rural extension, veterinary and fisheries services, and among key private sector partners, especially small-holder producers.

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is a term used to describe a situation where people do not have adequate physical and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences.

Currently in Canada there are more than 1 billion individuals who are food insecure are small-scale farmers living in rural areas, women and children.

How is Canada tackling food insecurity?

According to the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) they are looking to increase food security in developing countries by meeting basic needs, finding sustainable solutions and encouraging

  • Sustainable agricultural development to build the capacity of small-scale farmers, agriculture-related organizations, and governments and to support national and regional agricultural and food security strategies;
  • Food assistance and nutrition to provide more flexible, predictable, and needs-based funding to meet the emergency and long-term food and nutrition needs of the most vulnerable and higher-risk populations
  • Research and development to broaden and deepen publicly available research that makes significant improvements to food security outcomes

Overall, we as a collective need to think about how to make our food safer and more nutritious for the general public. Next time we will be examining the second principle and taking a close look at the role agriculture with the environment!

Author: Veronica Hislop Veronica is a Chemistry student studying at Ryerson University and loves looking at the science in the kitchen. She has a passion for bringing awareness to sustainability in the food industry. When Veronica is taking a break from her food endeavors you will find her at home reading a great novel and playing with her cats.

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