Infants and young children, pregnant women, the elderly and people with chronic illnesses are the most vulnerable to food safety problems, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimating that more than 220 million children suffer from diarrhea and over 96,000 die from food insecurity every year.
Sok Silo, secretary-general of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), quoted the figures at the opening of the Youth Forum on “Food Safety and Micronutrient Incorporation” in Kandal province on April 20.
Silo said that a lack of micronutrients, especially iodine, causes the body and mind of children to grow slowly, and if this happens from the time baby is in the womb, it can cause the baby to die in the womb or be born with a brain that will not develop in a healthy manner.
“According to a 2014 demographic and health survey, in Cambodia 78 per cent of women and 66 per cent of children have low iodine levels in their urine as standard, while 62 per cent of women and 64 per cent of children have zinc deficiencies.
“Folate deficiency is still a problem that affects 18 per cent of women. Vitamin D deficiency is also a moderate public health problem in the country, affecting 31 per cent of Cambodian women,” he said.
In addition, Vitamin B1 deficiency among women has also been found to be at a problematic level. To address these problems, the ministry specialists – in collaboration with relevant institutions – have been promoting the incorporation of essential micronutrients such as iodine, Vitamin A and Iron into foods to contribute to better national nutrition and health, Silo said.
“Food safety plays an important role in our daily lives. It is directly related to every stage of the food system – from production, processing, distribution and storage to the preparation and consumption of food, from the farm to the table,” he said.
The inclusion of micronutrients in food is also important in contributing to the promotion of nutrition as stated in the government’s Second National Strategy on Food Security and Nutrition 2019-2023 and the roadmap for a sustainable food system towards 2030.
Taing Meng Lean, deputy governor of Kandal province, said this issue requires provincial administrations to cooperate with all parties to improve all food production lines and food safety to consumers.
“Food security is an important issue and we must address it,” he said.
“All stakeholders need to increase awareness campaigns among the public. Everyone, whether government officials or workers, must work to change attitudes by eating safe food and a diet that is nutritious and varies,” he said.
These include vegetables, fresh fruit, fish, meat and eggs, which need to be eaten in large quantities – and regularly – to meet the needs of foods that make the body grow healthy and well. It would also improve work efficiency, he added.
From 2015 to 2021, a total of 119 people died from food poisoning and 4,699 fell ill, according to a report from the Ministry of Health’s Department of Drugs, Food, Medical Devices and Cosmetics.