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Dr Catherine Kunyanga

Senior Lecturer, Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Technology,
University of Nairobi

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Dr Catherine Kunyanga

Senior Lecturer, Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Technology,
University of Nairobi

Ignorance Kills. Maintaining Simple Food Safety Regulation Can Prevent Food-borne Disease and Save Lives.

Dr Catherine Kunyanga

Senior Lecturer, Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Technology,

University of Nairobi

“Food-borne illnesses are rife in urban informal settlements such as Kibera in Nairobi,” says Catherine. “These illnesses pose risks for human health, particularly for vulnerable populations such as young children. For example, the presence of dangerous micro-organisms and/or toxic chemicals in food can cause severe illness and can have deleterious effects on early childhood development. The problem isn’t just in households, but also in the markets – lack of water, poor or non-existent sanitation and grinding poverty are the ideal breeding ground for conditions including diarrhoea, typhoid and cholera, among others.”

Every year, contaminated food causes over 600 million cases of preventable illness and 420,000 deaths worldwide. And nowhere is that more apparent than in Kibera, a slum that’s home to around 250,000 people and one of the biggest informal settlements in the world. In total, there are around 2.5 million people living in 200 slum settlements in Nairobi, representing 60% of the city’s population but occupying just 6% of the land.

Even though governments do their utmost to improve the safety and quality of food, the high number of food-borne illnesses is a major public health issue for most countries – which is why Lloyd’s Register Foundation is collaborating with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and academic partners to educate the next generation of food safety professionals. The focus is on building food safety workforce capacity, leading to enhanced food safety, income and livelihood opportunities in two of the world’s most badly affected regions: East Africa and the Caribbean.

“Informal settlements have the greatest challenges, and many of these occur due to sanitation issues around handling and storage among street vendors, which is where most people buy their food,” adds Catherine. “Thanks to support from the Foundation, among others, every year around 100 BSc and up to 20 Master’s students are graduating from the University of Nairobi with professional expertise in food safety. They’re making a real difference to communities in need across East Africa, helping some of our continent’s poorest people stay safe.”

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