Food Safety in Bahrain: Setting the Standard for the World
07 June 2022
Op-Ed by the United Nations Country Team in Bahrain on the World Food Safety Day.
In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly designated 7 June as World Food Safety Day. This decision has been made in light of the critical need to raise awareness at all levels and to promote and mobilise actions to prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks. This year's theme is: "Safer food, better health." Food, after all, is more than just what we eat. It is the foundation of our culture, economy, and relationship with the natural world. Food safety is essential to human health and well-being. It contributes to a healthy life, economy, planet, and future. On the other hand, unsafe foods cause many diseases and contribute to other health conditions, such as impaired growth, micronutrient deficiencies, communicable and non-communicable diseases, and mental illness. Globally, one in ten people is affected by foodborne diseases annually due to contaminated food products.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has a high standard of food safety management that aligns with international best practices. This performance is undoubtedly beneficial to long-term human development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), Goal 3 (Health and Well-being), and Goal 6 (Water and Sanitation). Bahrain is a regional trendsetter in food safety. In addition to developing its national policies and guidelines, it also participates in standards formulation, implementation, and evaluation in the food safety committee within the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. It is also commendable that the Kingdom of Bahrain employs a multi-agency approach to food safety governance. The safety and quality of imported foods are strictly controlled. Although Bahrain does not formally apply the "One Health" approach, it applies stringent safety standards to imported livestock to protect local livestock, the environment and the citizens. This effort is being carried out in collaboration with the other GCC countries. As the country's plans for increasing local food production unfold, it is essential to enhance the food safety measures related to local production.
It is also critical that how we produce, process, market and consume our food, and dispose of our waste establishment -which we have coined 'food systems'- is sustainable. When food systems function well, they deliver food security and nutrition, allowing increased accessibility, affordability of a safe food for all, for an active, healthy life.
As a result of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the resulting decline in the global wheat supply, 44 million people in 38 countries are suffering from emergency levels of hunger, with price increases of up to 30 per cent for staple foods threatening people in countries across Africa and the Middle East. While the Kingdom of Bahrain and other GCC countries have been the least affected by the war in Ukraine, thanks to generous government subsidies, its food security may be challenged by climate change, urbanization trends, and the vulnerability they bring to the existing food system. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the extent to which climate change affects individual regions and countries will vary over time. Moreover, different societal and environmental systems will have varied abilities to mitigate or adapt to change. As a result of its recognition of global climate change challenges, the Government of the Kingdom of Bahrain has been actively engaged in consultation within the Global Food Systems Summit convened by the UN Secretary-General in September 2021, identifying food security and self-sufficiency of agricultural and fishery products as priorities for cooperation with the United Nations.
As a follow-up to last year's highly successful Global Food Systems Summit in New York, the Secretary-General has established a Food Systems Coordination Hub to bring together the UN system capacities for supporting all countries in transforming national food systems. Until September 2022, the Hub will host a series of monthly Food Systems Solutions Dialogues that will cover various areas of food systems.
Within the Strategic and Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for the period 2021-2024, the UN Country Team in Bahrain will continue to support Bahrain in developing food systems towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and to showcase Bahrain's food safety standards model at a global level.