Mindset has got a lot to do with food safety and quality

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Food quality significantly deteriorates across the food value chain because of poor production, handling, storage and distribution practices.

Berhanu Legesse is the general manager of Altilid Food Consulting. This Ethiopian firm offers services on food safety and food quality assurance along the supply chain. Berhanu is a participant of the 2024 food systems e-course. In his blog, he writes about changing mindsets as the foundation when it comes to upholding food safety and quality standards.

Although Ethiopia has a special and rich food culture, we do share some food related concerns with other developing countries. Among other things, ensuring food safety and food quality remain critical issues. With an ever-increasing population and many poor consumers to feed, Ethiopia faces challenges in maintaining high standards throughout the food system.

I’ve spent almost sixteen years of my professional career in the agri-food business and food service sectors. My observation is a concerning lack of attention for food safety and food quality in my country. The quality of food items deteriorates with every step in the food supply chain. Meaning the steps of production, handling, processing, storage and distribution to consumers.

Recently, I had this great opportunity to join a food systems e-course. It was a true experience to learn from prominent professionals in the field on the basics, implementation and meaningful approaches to deal with food systems challenges. It also helped me to further analyse how the food systems approach may contribute to solve the ongoing challenges of food safety and quality standards in Ethiopia.

Finding the balance

Food manufacturers and food service facilities are granted operational licences on the condition they meet certain requirements for safety and quality. One element from food system thinking is to look for the trade-offs. In this case, the trade-off is between the standards for food quality and the cost of production. By keeping minimum standards, there is less rejection of food items, which decreases operating costs per unit. More (small and medium) food businesses can meet these standards and contribute to the economy. One would expect lower consumer prices for food.

In contrast, while more stringent standards reduce the risks for public health, it also means more food rejected along the way. This would impact food prices and availability. Food that could have otherwise satisfied the nutritional needs of many. In my view, we can deal with this trade-off by investing in quality infrastructure and empowering the financial and technical capacities of the food businesses.

Changing mindsets

The efforts to set comprehensive food safety, quality and nutritional standards by various government bodies including the Ethiopia Food and Drug Authority, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Health are promising. Yet, there is still room to align the scattered policies and programs regarding nutrition and food safety. It requires integration of efforts - that is also what food systems approach entails.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but there is an additional solution for this trade-off. It requires changing the mindset of food business owners to adopt higher standards. Rather than looking at standards as only cost aspects, one could see higher standards as an opportunity to stand out in the food market. There are consumers that demand good quality and safety of their food for the value of money they spend. The power to drive the food market with preference for high quality food products and services is in the hands of these consumers.

Currently, I engage in building capacity, creating awareness, and advocating food safety standards. I foresee collaborating and network with food system actors to play my part in advancing the food system. There is no single or isolated approach to dealing with the challenges. But, with effective collaboration and a changed mindset, I trust, upholding food safety and quality standards will be a piece of cake!


Berhanu Legesse

Berhanu Legesse Ariti

e-course participant

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