World Bank report has disclosed, Nigeria and other low-income and middle-income countries across the world, especially in Africa and Asia, spend $110bn in lost productivity and medical expenses in treating illnesses arising from unsafe food.
In a statement on the report made available to our correspondent in Abuja on Wednesday, the World Bank said that the new study found that the impact of unsafe food costs low and middle-income economies about $110bn in lost productivity and medical expenses each year.
It added that a large proportion of the costs could be avoided by adopting preventive measures that improve how the food was being handled.
Better managing the safety of food will also significantly contribute to achieving multiple Sustainable Development Goals, especially those relating to poverty, hunger, and well-being, the bank said.
The statement read in part, “Food-borne diseases caused an estimated 600 million illnesses and 420,000 premature deaths in 2010, according to the World Health Organisation.
“This global burden of food-borne disease is unequally distributed. Relative to their population, low- and middle-income countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa bear a proportionately high burden.
“They account for 41 percent of the global population, yet 53 percent of all food-borne illness and 75 percent of related deaths.
“Unsafe food threatens young children the most: although children under five make up only nine percent of the world’s population, they account for almost 40 percent of food-borne disease and 30 percent of related deaths.”
The report entitled, ‘The Safe Food Imperative: Accelerating Progress in Low and Middle-income Countries’, translates the grim statistics into economic terms to focus government attention on the need for greater investment, better regulatory frameworks, and measures that promote behavior change, the bank said.
The total productivity loss associated with food-borne diseases in low and middle-income countries is estimated at $95.2bn per year, and the annual cost of treating food-borne illnesses is estimated at $15bn.
According to the World Bank, other costs, though harder to quantify, include losses of farm and company sales, foregone trade income, the health repercussions of consumer avoidance of perishable yet nutrient-rich foods, and the environmental burden of food waste.
The statement quoted the Senior Director of the Food and Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank, Juergen Voegele, to have said, “Food safety receives relatively little policy attention and is under-resourced. An action is normally reactive — to major food-borne disease outbreaks or trade interruptions rather than preventative.
“By focusing on domestic food safety more deliberately, countries can strengthen the competitiveness of their farmers and food industry and develop their human capital. After all, safe food is essential to fuel a healthy, educated, and resilient workforce.”
For many low and middle-income countries, rapid demographic and dietary changes, among others, are contributing to wider exposure of populations to food-borne hazards, stretching if not overwhelming prevailing capacity to manage food safety risks, the bank added.