Editor's Note [Volume 23 No. 4 (2023)]

Food Safety

In the advent of climate variability (commonly known as climate change), consideration for food safety is ever more critical than before. Ordinarily weather would dictate what part of the food value chain fits within what season. During land preparation, there is little rain, then rain comes during planting to facilitate germination. The rain continues as the crops grow. Then the rain begins to subside as the crop matures and the grain begins to dry. Eventually the rain subsides to allow the grain to be harvested and dried. All this ensured grains, particularly, stayed safe for human consumption. As I recall growing up in the village and with my parents, grains were dried and stored in a well woven granary. The grains were well aired, raised from the ground to avoid rodent infestation, and the grain remained dry and whole, clean. But during my teenage, a case of what was to be diagnosed as throat cancer emerged. Then about 2 more people got throat cancer; this seemed to concentrate just in my village. What was to be the problem? Now as we set up cancer centers in Kenyan counties, a medical friend of mine says they see 3 cases of throat cancer every week in Kakamega County. It is curious where this is coming from. Where is this coming from? Ok, we really have a problem with food and water safety, and mostly connected to climate change. Food needs proper temperature control otherwise it attracts contaminants including pathogenic bacteria. Then water for drinking and household use gets contaminated by runoff, the runoff would most likely carry contaminants with it, including faecal matter. Clearly this is dangerous. Food safety is a big concern for Africa. I have not done any epidemiological studies but I am imagining a lot more episodes of food poisoning and toxicity than before, than reported. The sad part is that we do not seem to be doing anything differently than before climate change. We have just had a tragedy in a boarding school (maybe more) in Kenya where school girls and a teacher have died from consumption of contaminants; could be contaminated grain (maize and beans is a common dish in the schools) or faecal contaminated water. Investigations are still ongoing but clearly one needs to pay special attention to how we protect our food systems from contamination. Food and especially grain is not contaminated just in institution storage, but also in homes and in street food service as well. There is no doubt more people than we know are affected by food poisoning. Bad food is toxic and can kill. Public Health departments need to do more on food safety to protect consumers. However nutritious food is, it is no good if it is contaminated.

In this issue, we carry 15 thoroughly reviewed papers. We welcome you to take time to read those of interest to you.

Ruth Khasaya Oniang'o
Editor-in-Chief, AJFAND


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