Driving Improvements in Food Safety Through Local Business

  • Date Posted: February 20, 2024
  • Authors: Roberta Lauretti-Bernhard
  • Organizations/Projects: Food Enterprise Solutions Business Drivers for Food Safety
  • Document Types: Evidence or Research
  • Donor Type: U.S. Agency for International Development


Meat processing in Lalitpur Nepal.

Food safety is a term that includes many aspects of supplying consumers with safer foods. It starts with safe inputs, fertile uncontaminated soil and feed, clean water, safe on-farm practices, and other important pre-requisites along the supply/value chain until it reaches consumers. Unsafe food impacts countries’ economies and populations in several ways; public health, human productivity, post-harvest losses, use of the natural resource base, medicine, nutrition, private sector growth, trade, and many others. It is an overwhelming and daunting issue to address and is now a major global issue as more food is commercialized and traded across the globe than ever before.

In developing countries, barriers to effective food safety systems include prohibitive costs, a lack of surveillance programs, and limited opportunities for employee education/training to name a few. There are many organizations in the nonprofit, public and private sectors addressing food safety. Most efforts target large companies looking for lucrative export markets. Few affordable/quality services are available for small- to medium- sized enterprises (SMEs). These businesses provide a substantial amount of food for local populations, and a good percentage enters the export market by way of large wholesalers and logistics firms. The mission of Food Enterprise Solutions (FES) is to energize the global food system to better balance global needs and profit. FES leverages the powers of business, entrepreneurship, and innovation as key drivers in the global fight against hunger and malnutrition. To that end, FES partners with SMEs to provide safe, nutritious, and affordable foods that are commercially viable and environmentally sustainable. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420,000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years (DALYs).[1] Furthermore, the dietary transition and associated market transformation have increased food safety risks. At the local level, SMEs supply a significant amount of food/nutrition to local populations, and many are suppliers to export supply chains as well. They play a significant role in the overall contribution to consumers’ health, protection, and advancement of food regulations and standards. However, not all food companies, particularly SMEs, are able to follow demands highlighted by international and local standards and regulatory bodies. Many developing countries/emerging economies lack the resources to participate in international trade because of the difficulties in complying with the requirements of food safety standards. Often, this extends to their local food supply as well. The broad underlying reasons for this are: outdated and/or unclear laws, lack of knowledge and training, limited coordination between the private and public sectors, food loss and waste, under-funding of national research institutes, lack of awareness of standards and quality, and inadequate infrastructure.

Feed the Future Business Drivers for Food Safety (BD4FS), funded by USAID and implemented by FES, is a multi-country (Senegal, Ethiopia, and Nepal) project that works alongside SMEs, or as they are referred to in the BD4FS project, “growing food businesses” (GFBs) to co-design and implement incentive-based strategies to accelerate the adoption of food safety practices in local food systems. The BD4FS theory of change (TOC) proposes that by co-creating with GFBs to address food safety challenges and by delivering targeted training and technical assistance, and promoting business-to-business facilitation programs, GFBs will be better prepared to adopt improved food safety practices that reduce the risk of food safety hazards. Through its applied research and implementation of BD4FS, FES has developed a preparatory stage for these companies to be better prepared to participate in the broader, more difficult, and more expensive certifications to comply with both local and international trade laws. This can enable GFBs in developing markets to reduce key risks in growing a sustainable food business to meet the ever-increasing demands, needs, expectations, and trust of government food safety regulators and consumers. By focusing on the role of local food businesses in improving food safety, the FES team has added to USAID’s knowledge base regarding strategies and methodologies for enterprise-level assistance in food system strengthening, developed best practices and lessons learned, and generated success stories from collaborating with entrepreneurs to improve food safety. Stakeholder engagement also raises national awareness around the issue of food safety and lays the foundation for the promotion of a “food safety culture” among all actors in a national food system.