The Faculty of Science at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) in collaboration with the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), Agricultural Research Council (ARC) and Department of Science and Technology (DST), hosted a three day International congress on Food Safety and Security on Monday, 16 May 2016 until Wednesday, 18 May 2016 at Resolution Circle in Milpark.
The Conference saw panels of South African and foreign experts discussing the central theme of this highly acclaimed conference: “Improving Food Safety and Security for Sustainability in Africa”.
“This conference is of great importance. We are confident that we have representation of the relevant stakeholders to engage on what it would take to improve on the food situation within the continent judging by the quality and caliber of our young scholars, delegates, and distinguished guests. It is expected that the results of our deliberations will be useful for the government, healthcare professionals, manufacturers and other stakeholders to move the continent from a state of food insecurity to a food-secure haven”, said Prof Debra Meyer, UJ’s Dean: Faculty of Science.
The speakers at the open event on Sunday 15 May included: Mr Wandile Sihlobo of the Agricultural Business Chamber South Africa, Dr Tobia Takavarasha a United Nations Food and Agriculture Representative for South Africa, Prof Crain Soudien of the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC), South Africa, Dr Phillipe Kuhutama Mawoko of the African Observatory for STI within the African Union Commission and Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, South Africa.
The delegates to the conference discussed topics such as: The position of South Africa from food Security Perspective to Sustainable Development; Barriers to efforts aimed at combating malnutrition, Food Safety and Insecurity; The impact of arrested Economic Growth and Food Insecurity Nexus; Politics of food Dumping; Health and Supremacy in Africa; and the African Union’s strategy for creating a food-secure Africa and building a Sustainable Agricultural and Food system.
“We need to explore every culture, engineering, innovation, biotechnology, nanotechnology and science in general in food production and use these in service to society, not to profit a few but to address challenges that the entire continent is facing,” explained Prof Meyer.
Prof Meyer concluded saying Africa is a continent faced with many complex challenges including agriculture and food production and this congress provided the opportunity for proper dialogue, dissemination and exchange of ideas, as well as high-level debates around food safety and (in) security.
Also speaking at the conference, Dr Patrick Njobeh, 2016 International Food Safety and Security (FSaS) Conference Chairperson commented: “At this conference, challenges and barriers to enhancing food safety and security for sustainability in Africa were identified, while deliberations on how to address the inherent problems were made. More particular in taking these deliberations forward, a strategic meeting ensued,” said Dr Njobeh.
“At this meeting, key note speaker Dr Martin Lo, President & CEO of BioIntelliPro, proposed the development of a global proposal not only to provide training for young students/scientists in developing countries on the latest technologies for the detection and control of aflatoxins (mycotoxins) but to address food safety issues in the continent. Dr Lo is partnering with Dr. Charles Wilson, founder of the World Food Preservation Center® LLC (WFPC) and Prof Sarah De Saeger (another key note speaker) from Ghent University in Belgium which is at the forefront of technologies,” said Dr Njobeh.
The conference was mainly sponsored by the National Research Foundation (NRF) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) of South Africa. The University of Johannesburg (UJ) has been invited by Dr Charles Wilson to be a sister university of the World Food Preservation Center (WFPC).
Food security and safety concept
The transition in the concept of Food Security from the 1950s to date has been strategic and inclusive towards ensuring sustainable access and availability of safe and nutritious foods. The trend has shifted from “self-sufficiency in major staples” through “access to sufficient food (Food and Agricultural Organization’s World Food Conference of 1974)”, to the present day concept stating that “Food Security is achieved when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life” (FAO World Food Summit, 1996). Food security is pivoted on four major aspects which are availability, access, stability and utilization.