How to measure food safety for sustainable development according to FAO

An estimated 600 million people get sick from consuming unsafe food each year, with 420 000 of them dying. For this reason, the main goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals is universal access to safe food.

A booklet titled "Measuring food safety – Indicators to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)" was released by the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in April 2021. The aim of this concise guide is to offer country technical and practical advice on developing national indicators of food safety that serve national objectives. Food safety indicators, as demonstrated in the pilot projects of this guide, provide countries with the ability to develop sustainable capacities that begin with existing capital and do not require significant funding. Furthermore, the food safety indicators, as explained by FAO, can be both strategic and sustainable mechanism to enhance the food safety since the data they present is the result of a systematic and scientific approach. The details obtained from such data is unique to each nation, but it can serve as well-founded, evidence-based starting point for improving food safety.  

The guide is composed of a variety of examples from pilot countries where indicators were stated to have helped expose the realities of national food control systems. It clearly demonstrates many of the best practices and pitfalls.  For instance, in one of the pilot countries, the task of evaluating indicators was assigned to academic partners through a government-university collaboration, which resulted in effective results in developing common methodologies for how to use them, as well as strengthened food safety partnerships. The number of confirmed cases of foodborne diseases was chosen as a quantifiable parameter in another pilot nation, however, in this case, this did not produce a definitive result: greater monitoring was correlated with a higher number of confirmed incidents. There are many more examples and practices explained in FAO’s guide with which food safety competent authorities will be armed with the expertise and experience-based tips to use national food safety indicators in order to enhance the food safety situations in their countries.