Securely nutritious

Food security. We commonly think of the term as referring to whether someone has access to food and that enough food is available. However, there’s food and then there’s safe and nutritious food. Karyn Havas and Mo Salman of Colorado State University argue that we should also think of food security in terms of nutritional quality and health as well as food that is free from harmful disease agents and adulterants, so that policies, humanitarian efforts and scientific research surrounding food security should focus on “wholesome food security”.

It’s a modern tragedy of population growth and the disparity between the haves and the have-nots that at least one billion people lack safe and sufficient food to meet their nutritional needs and are malnourished. They simply do not get enough calories, protein, vitamins or minerals, all of which lowers quality of life and leads to premature death by way of poor immune response, stunted physical and mental growth and development, anaemia, blindness, lethargy, pain, emaciation and any number of diseases. Twenty countries in Africa, Asia, the Western Pacific and the Middle East account for the majority of the chronically malnourished, Havas and Salman write in the International Journal of Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health.

It is money, of course, that is to blame. Money and its socioeconomic cousin, power, and within the context of those two issues are entwined overpopulation, climate change, urbanisation, desertification, water shortages, natural disasters, disease, civil war, and terrorism. Local access to food thus differs dramatically across those twenty nations and between those parts of the world that, on the whole, do not see such vast numbers of malnourished people. “It must be stated though, that in every country there is hunger, and this often falls along economic and social lines,” the team says. “The underprivileged – be they individuals or countries – often have less.”

Food security is a multi-dimensional topic, the team says, the greater issues lie in global population growth, industrial-based change such as globalisation, and environmental stewardship that will address sustainability and climate change. But any attempt to somehow address those issues to provide food at the local level for hungry people will fail if the concept of finding ways to feed those people with food that is safe and wholesome, that is balanced in protein, fat, carbohydrate and micro-nutrient content. This will continue to be a problem between the have and the have-nots, but none are exempt from foodborne illness,” Havas told Sciencebase.

Research Blogging IconKaryn Havas, & Mo Salman (2011). Food security: its components and challenges Int. J. Food Safety, Nutrition and Public Health, 4 (1), 4-11

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