Thanks to the organizers of this recognized event I had the opportunity to talk about world developing topic connected to food security – food racism and discrimination. Through this work relation with food safety systems is presented, including actionable steps which could prevent racism and discrimination against food business operators and their product development, production, and sales.
Providing enough food comes along with the necessity that food is safe. To help producers understand how to make safe food, standards are developed. Through food safety standards problematics of intentional food contamination or fraudulent activities are covered.
In parts of world where there is sufficient food, new challenges arise. Estimated four million Muslims live in Germany and they ask for HALAL food products. Situations happened where offered HALAL meat products are intentionally mixed with pork products. Use of China fast food dropped due to consumers connecting Covid19 outbreak with fake news of consumed bat soup on Wuhan market. The term “food deserts” used to describe low-income communities without access to nutritious food and looking into location of these we come to the Black people communities. In parts of South Asia, men consume twice as many calories, even though women do much of the heavy work. A study in India found that girls are four times more likely to suffer from acute malnutrition than boys are. This opens new topics defined as food racism, discrimination, or inequality. In this work the relation of food safety systems with previously mentioned topic and future of food safety standard requirements is presented.
THE HISTORY OF FOOD SECURITY
Providing enough food has always been a quest for humankind. In the early beginnings, foraging and hunting were desperate endeavours of man, especially in long winter periods. From the Palaeolithic period, evidence has been found that man learned to horde certain foodstuffs in caves to prevent famine during the winter periods. The necessity to secure enough food forced man to start growing wheat and barleys, which further affected in agricultural revolution and man settling down.
With every population growth comes consequences of food insecurity. At the end of first century Rome had a population over million which was megalopolis for that period in world history. Food distribution in a city of that size was enormous problem, because food had to travel slowly over long distances without the benefits of sterile packaging, industrial refrigeration, or the range of chemical and biological preservatives we now command (Thurmond, 2006).
Famine will have been a constant threat for the urban poor who represented some 90-95% of the total population of the city, and periodic food shortages were certainly an even more pressing concern (Garnsey, 1988). Still, Rome did manage to feed people, at least most of them, most of the time. This was achieved by empirical trial and error to discover, assimilate, and disseminate techniques for processing foodstuff in order that food is in a reasonably safe and digestible state.
The history of food security in modern times, until the new millennium is described in the literature by different contributors, among which most cited is S. Maxwell. Based on Maxwell analysis in 1974 and his thoughts, the following periods in the evolution of the food security agenda can be underlined:
- 1974–1980 and the concern on global food security;
- 1981–1985 and the emphasis on food entitlement and structural adjustments;
- 1986–1990 and the shift in attention from food security to poverty;
- 1996– and the search for a new direction to return to food production or towards concerns regarding consumption and access.
Even in earlier periods, at the end of the Second World War when negative impacts on world food production happened, food security became international concern. Therefore in 1948, the severity of the food shortage pushed the UN to declare access to food as a fundamental human right. But in that period, because no conceptual and theoretical framework existed to analyse largely agrarian peasant societies, the development economics reflected post-war economic thinking in developed countries (FAO, 1993). In this context, food security was considered only a problem of physical availability at the national level, and this understanding informed policies until the end of the 1970s.
According to Malthus’ natural law of population, there is natural tendency for population to grow, and this generally affects the development of the means of production and food output (Malthus, 1966). Progress can play a role in increasing land productivity, but according to author this rate “is slow and hesitant”. As a result, a growing share of the population would be subject to miserable hunger. In this context, death is regarded as the only factor capable of rebuilding the inequality between the population and resources.
In further works Malthus proposes solutions to this problem. Through the analysis of these Malthus writing, author D. Rutherford based three approaches to solving the problem:
- First approach: changing human behaviour
- Second approach: changing the quantity of the subsistence (food basically – it changes from the fruits of nature to a mixture of agricultural and manufactured products serving as “funds” to support labour)
- Third approach: changing the structure of the economy to avoid population problems
Malthus understanding of the population and food needs was confirmed through the years. As mentioned, developed countries considered physical food availability on national level as most important problem of food security, but latter academic perception and approach included global food supply and access dimensions. This is first explained by Nobel winner Sen (1981), with the introduction of the entitlement approach, initiated a shift in thinking that helped broaden food security analysis from a narrow focus on national and global food supply to include the access dimension, a problem faced by millions of households and individuals. Empirical evidence supported this view showing that even if the availability of food supply is still important, individual’s inability to access to food is the greater constraint.
Therefore, policymakers began to clearly understand that production did not assure consumption and that people needed access to food (Maxwell, 1998).
Production-oriented approaches, even, if necessary, were considered insufficient to improve food security (FAO 2000). The new concept of food security focused not only on food supply but also on fundamental dimensions: food availability, supply stability, utilisation of food and access to food, where this last dimension relates to the rising questions of ethical and human rights to food.
THE RIGHT TO ADEQUATE FOOD
Murphy’s thirteenth law: every solution breed new problem, can be historically tracked in the development of world food security. As policymakers develop one solution, new problems arise in connection with providing food to all people.
Looking in the food from the point of just physical needs was not sufficient. Reason for this is existing of several terms, like undernourishment and undernutrition. Undernourishment defined by FAO is a state, where person is unable to acquire enough food to meet his or her daily minimum dietary energy requirements over a period of at least one year. The outcome of the undernourishment in undernutrition (underweight, dangerously thin for ones hight, deficient in vitamins and minerals etc.).
Undernutrition is one side of malnutrition – the former defined by inadequate energy, protein, and other micro and macro nutrients relative to the need (FAO, 2000). In fact, food insecurity can be determined by causes such as poor intake of micronutrients and this led to development of definition of the right to adequate food – which is defined in 1996, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, in Article 11) as “the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture; the accessibility of such food in ways that are sustainable and that do not interfere with the enjoyment of other human rights” (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1999). This definition was ratified by 156 states.
Definition makes it clear that food security is focused on acknowledgement of needs provided with concepts of availability, access, utilisation, and stability. Provision of adequate food is much more, and it considers food security, but basics are in acknowledgement of human rights (dignity, accountability, empowerment, non-discrimination, participation, transparency, and rule of law).
The right to food is promoted by the political proposal of food sovereignty and concept was defined by FAO (2006) as “a right of countries and peoples to define their own agricultural, pastoral, fishery and food policies which are ecologically, socially, economically, and culturally appropriate. Food sovereignty promotes the right to food for the entire population, through small and medium-sized production, respecting: the cultures, diversity of peasants, pastoralists, fisherfolk, Indigenous Peoples and their innovation systems, their ways and means of production, distribution and marketing and their management of rural areas and landscapes. Women play a fundamental role in ensuring food sovereignty”.
The distinctive feature of food sovereignty “is the right of people and states to determine their own food and agricultural policy that prioritises small farming. Therefore, food sovereignty and food security are not antagonistic concepts, but the right to define one’s food policy goes beyond the concept of food security. It is one of the pillars of a modern state. On the other side, the emphasis on small farmers or, more generally, on how to production is a matter to be addressed through specific government policies” (Gordillo, 2013).
MIGRATION AND FOOD INTEGRATION CHALANGES
World Food Programme report clearly shows that “there is a particularly strong link between migrations, food, and conflicts: refugee outflows per 1.000 population increase by 0.4% for each additional year of conflict, and by 1.9% for each percentage increase of food insecurity, while “higher levels of undernourishment contribute to the occurrence and intensity of armed conflict” (WFP, 2017)”.
In the previous period major migrations from Africa have been initiated by the disruption of traditional food systems, because of climate change and droughts (for example Sahelian countries in the 1970s); inadequate food policies (Ethiopia in the 1980s); even controversial trade agreements (West African countries since the 1990s). On the other hand, the lack of workers in the agricultural sector in the Mediterranean countries has provided a pull factor for migrations and has helped in the exploitation of cheap labour.
Millions of people have crossed borders, and many tried to reach developed countries just to escape hunger, especially the ones living in sub-Saharan Africa. Most people running away from hunger are refused entry and protection in other countries because they do not qualify as refugees in the legal sense. They are in those cases detained and held in processing or detention centres, before forcibly repatriated to their own countries.
“But refugees from hunger are not migrants. They do not move voluntarily, but out of a state of necessity. Especially when famine strikes a whole country or a whole region, individuals have no other choice but to flee across international borders. Hunger is an immediate threat to their lives and those of their families. They should therefore be protected and have the right to temporary non-refoulment. The need to strengthen protection for people forced to leave their homes and land because of hunger was recognized by the General Assembly in its resolution 62/164 on the right to food” (A/HRC/AC/6/CRP.1, 2011)
“Food has increasingly become a distinctive element of the identities (including religious identities) of individuals and communities. The spreading of eating habits and customs from migrant origin countries, particularly from Africa, is changing the European cultural panorama. It is not only a question of diet or preferences, but of the introduction of new cultural codes through the ingredients, rules and cuisine imported by immigrants. This is increasingly reflected by the food industry and markets in Europe” (Caracciolo, 2017).
Men’s relationship with food is analogous to their relationship with language according to anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. Both relationships occur naturally and culturally at the same time. “Each ethnic group defines its identity in relation to the foods that make up its primary food base (in Mediterranean cultures, for example, wheat products), but also in relation to special foods that celebrate social relationships in ritual mode or are part of religious precepts. In Mediterranean history, oil and lard consumption was a result of the interaction between production specialization and religion as a prescriber of food habits” (Turmo, 2012).
According to previous it is understandable that demand for ethnic ingredients and food is increasing in Europe. For example, in previous three years constant growth rate of about 5% year to year is recorded for the spice and herbs market, and this is for EU imports from developing countries. Still, there are differences in the food market due to different ethnic communities.
In Western Europe this is presented in next Ibis world and Nielsen mass market data: “United Kingdom (Indians, Pakistani and Bengali communities / 87% supplied by the Mass Market Retail); The Netherlands (Indonesian, Turkish and Moroccan communities / 53% supplied by MMR); Germany (Turkish community / 47% supplied by MMR); France (Moroccan, Algerian, other North African communities, and French-speaking countries of West Africa / 69% supplied from MMR)”.
“Ethnic food tastes vary from region, country and even buyer. Indian food in the UK tastes different from that in Germany and uses different ingredients and mixtures. For immigrants, finding ingredients to prepare traditional dishes is still the biggest obstacle to overcome. The progressive global urbanization and the consequent large-scale distribution of large-scale circuits have lowered the cost of ethnic products, facilitating the task of millions of migrants” (BCFN, 2017).
“Food, therefore, is a powerful cultural signifier. Through it, we can manifest inclusiveness, belonging, attachment, in short being a symbolic expression of social bond. On the contrary, it can represent exclusivity, generate stereotypes and feelings of disgust that demarcate boundaries” (BCFN, 2017). One cannot ignore the difficulties of food integration, because among European populations the differences between nutrition cultures can be exploited by those rejecting every possibility of co-existing with those coming from countries that are perceived as socio-culturally “distant”, with little regard to the geographic meaning of the word.
MIGRATION AND FOOD DISCRIMINATION, HALAL PRODUCTS EXAMPLE
Increasing ethnic and racial diversity of societies is the inevitable consequence of migration. Increasing migration means that a growing number of States have become or are becoming more multi-ethnic and are confronted with the challenge of accommodating peoples of different cultures, races, religions, and language. Addressing the reality of increased diversity means finding political, legal, social, and economic mechanisms to ensure mutual respect and to mediate relations across differences. But xenophobia and racism have become manifest in some societies which have received substantial numbers of immigrants, as workers or as asylum-seekers. In those countries the migrants have become the targets in internal disputes about national identity. In the last decade, the emergence of new nation states has often been accompanied by ethnic exclusion (ILO and IOM, 2001).
“Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life released the report The Future of the Global Muslim Population on demographic trends among Muslim populations around the world in 2011. According to the report, in 2010, 74% of Muslims lived in 49 countries, where they made up most of the population. By 2030, the world’s total Muslim population is expected to increase by 35% over its 2010 level, to 2.2 billion people. In total, Muslims will make up about 26% of the world’s population” (Pew Research Center, 2011).
“Islam is the fastest-growing religion, which has positively affected the demand for halal products. Estimations are that the global halal food and beverage market size is valued at USD 774.93 billion in 2021 and is expected to witness a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.6% from 2022 to 2030” (GWR, 2021).
Halal food consumers are today more aware and educated in their daily food consumption purchasing. They do not only concern about the food ingredients whether it is halal or not, but also curious about all the activities involved along the supply chain whether the products that they purchased were truly halal all the way. But, today, halal food consumers and specifically Muslim migration population experience different kind of concerns where availability of halal food or ingredients is questioned.
Migration from North Africa to Europe started at the end of WWII. Generally, most North Africans immigrated to France since Algeria was part of its territory, and Morocco and Tunisia were protectorates. However, with the oil crises of the seventies and new restrictive migratory laws adopted by central and northern European countries, migratory movement redirected itself toward Italy. Two decades later, 800,000 immigrants were living in Italy, and currently there are about two million foreign-born residents living in the country.
Immigrants are identified by their religious beliefs, and often these religious beliefs are regarded as negative features. All immigrants coming from Africa are described as Muslim. Muslims, some Italians believe, want to import Islam to Italy. Often Islam is portrayed by the media in connection with violence and terrorism. Immigrants, instead, use their religion to reinforce their self-esteem and their sense of identity (Ferrara, 2011).
To obtain identity in Italy, and food is important part of personal identity, halal butcher shops became a place where Muslims of all different nationalities can meet and form community. Halal meat too, has a symbolic meaning that is different to the Muslim and non-Muslim populations.
Exactly there, racism and discrimination could be seen, as the Italian public often associates ritual religious slaughtering of animals – halal slaughter, with barbaric and violent traditions that reflect the characteristics of what they see as a blood-thirsty religion. Slaughter of meat-producing animals, a fundamental process that turns a live animal into health and safe meat for human consumption, is also dealt with by different religions (Bozzo et al., 2021). In fact, the sacred books of the main monotheistic faiths (Bible, Torah, and Qur’an) contain detailed descriptions of the practice. The precepts that regulate slaughter in these sacred books are essential for Orthodox practitioners, especially for Jews and Muslims. For this reason, in the Qur’an, foods are defined halal (allowed according to the sacred books) or haram (prohibited), and every believer must avoid haram food and consume only halal food and drink (Conficoni et al., 2022).
Still, there are negative situations recorded in connection with halal food and halal butcher shops. US International Religious Freedom Report for Italy, from 2019 presented the situation from August, where members of animal activist groups protested outside a halal butcher shop during Eid al-Adha in the town of Robecca sul Navaglio in Lombardy. Various media channels presented that protesters called the Muslims “assassins” and also communicated to Muslims to “sacrifice their kids” instead of animals. Even photographs from the mentioned demonstration presented banners with reading “bloodthirsty Muslims”.
Openness toward immigrant entrepreneurship and food in Italy is visible in cities like Turin. Porta Palazzo is a neighbourhood in Turin which is mostly populated by Moroccan immigrants. Close to this neighbourhood many ethnic businesses have started that serve both the Italian and the immigrant population (Ambrosini & Castagnone & Gasparetti, 2008). But, in some other cities, like Lucca, Tuscany, the local government has banned ethnic food that is not from local Italian tradition inside the city limits. In general, the Italian reaction toward Muslim culture is variegated and while certain cities have welcomed the differences others have shown a discriminatory side.
These situations are not exclusive for Italy only. In recent years the protests in Europe were massive about the use and labelling of halal food, including the justification of halal certification.
In 2018, councils in UK intended to prohibit halal meat supply to schools, and first local authority in the UK was Lancashire to rule that meat supplied to pupils in its schools must be from animals that have been stunned before slaughter. Under UK law, farm animals must be stunned before slaughter – although there is religious exemption for Jews and Muslims. This led to string response of the Lancashire Council of Mosques (LCM), that named this decision as “undemocratic and hugely discriminatory” (Dalton, 2018).
In 2019, ban of halal and kosher slaughter, has come into legislation in the Flanders regions of Belgium. According to the ban, animals must be stunned before their throats are cut in religious rituals, and this affected the Jewish and Muslim groups that pointed out that the new rules violate EU freedom of religion laws. This ban was based on issue of animal welfare that was strongly supported by animal rights groups.
However, the debate is unlikely to be just an issue of animal welfare either, with right-wing nationalists also having called for a ban on ritual slaughter. This has led to concerns that Jewish and Muslim communities in Belgium are being targeted under the guise of animal protection and ethics amid concerns of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia (Selby, 2019).
In 2021, after the ruling of the European Union Court of Justice giving the European countries the right to impose laws concerning the obligation of anaesthesia on an animal before slaughtering since it does not contradict with the freedom of Jewish and Islamic religious beliefs and rituals, the ban has been spreading quickly and widely. The first to start was Belgium, then Poland and Cyprus and at the end Greece joined. It is necessary to mention that before the court decision, other countries had already prohibited the practices – Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Slovenia Iceland, Denmark, and Switzerland ban halal slaughter, while Finland, Estonia, Germany, and Spain allow slaughter according to halal. While Muslims saw the ban’s law as a result of Islamophobia rather than a concern for animal rights, Jews find in it a reference to a dark period in European history. “The law banning halal slaughter appeared in Europe in 1933 when the Nazis banned kosher slaughter” (Green, 2016). Still, this ban came in a time of growing tensions across Europe over the balance between animal welfare and religious freedom. Due to that there were situations recorded in media, for example in Germany were offered halal products (prepacked sliced meat products) separated on store shelf is intentionally mixed with pork product by non-Muslim consumers as act of dissatisfaction.
In recent times there were a couple of protests in India — Hindus and Sikhs protested halal-only status of Air India. Many Hindus protested against IndiGo company on twitter. Ishkaran Singh Bhandari, who is legal expert from New Delhi, has launched an attack against McDonald’s for their “stealth” halal (Shakar, 2020). All of this led in 2022, to a “petition filed in the New Delhi, India, Supreme Court that has sought a complete ban on halal products and halal certification, claiming that fundamental rights of 85% citizens were being infringed for the sake of 15% population who use these products” (Thomas, 2022).
All these activities previously stated are in direct confrontation to several laws and definitions. For example, one previously mentioned in this paper – 1996, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR, in Article 11) the right to adequate food as “the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture; the accessibility of such food in ways that are sustainable and that do not interfere with the enjoyment of other human rights” (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1999). This definition was ratified by 156 states.
Considering that the Qur’an does not give an indication of what exactly is halal, but it gives a clear definition of what is not. These precepts of the Qur’an are essential in order to be considered good practitioners, so it is essential for every good Muslim to follow them. For this reason, it is important for the Western world to understand and respect these needs for a harmonious integration of people. Since Muslims cannot consume not halal food, they must have a source for this kind of food to avoid their use of unofficial channels that are not regulated and controlled (Conficoni et.al., 2022).
If sources of proper food are not provided and this is done intentionally it leaves us with nothing else than to consider that acts as discrimination – “Any distinction, exclusion, restriction, or preference based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin which has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life”. Since this is connected only to one aspect which is food, we can conclude that term food discrimination can be applied.
FOOD INSECURITY DUE TO RACISM IN DIFFERENT ETHNICITIES, GENDER, AND CULTURES
In July 2022, various media reported that Pope Francis travelled to Maskwacis in Alberta, where he gave a sweeping and emotional apology to Canada’s Indigenous people. The reason for doing this was the colonization in the late 19th century where Catholic churches had a role in fostering a “colonizing mentality” and the “forced assimilation” that was a feature of church-run residential schools on Indigenous lands. Some of those schools became known for the abuse of Indigenous children, many of whom were forcibly separated from their families. In 2015, Canada’s National Center for Truth and Reconciliation described what had happened at these schools as “cultural genocide.” In 2021, nearly 1,000 unmarked graves were uncovered on the old school grounds (Nagorski, 2022).
Supplementary report of National Inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls from 2019, explained part of the case connected with the food insecurity: “In addition to the premeditated killing of Indigenous peoples, there existed egregious colonial policies that caused serious bodily and mental harm to Indigenous peoples and deliberately inflicted conditions of life on Indigenous communities calculated to bring about their physical destruction. In the 1870s, colonial troops “denied food as a means to ethnically cleanse a vast region from Regina to the Alberta border as the Canadian Pacific Railway took shape”. In the 1880s, government-sanctioned residential schools were created, and Indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families to face starvation, deliberate infection of diseases, beating…”.
Food insecurity is persistent problem today for Indigenous people in Canada due to the fact that remote and northern communities are connected to the remoteness of the communities combined with the ongoing impact of colonial practices that have disrupted traditional ways of gathering food. Data from the Inuit Statistical Profile shows that food insecurity is a major concern across Inuit Nunangat: in Nunatsiavut, 44% of households are food insecure; in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region, 46% are food insecure; and in Nunavut, 70% of households are food insecure. These numbers are a stark contrast to the 8% of households in Canada that struggle to have adequate food (Kanatami, 2018).
Racial inequality has become the normal way in American society. Racial inequality and racism with their consequences are inseparable from American history. It is impossible to talk about the geographic expansion of the country without taking into consideration how Native Americans were deprived of their land, forcibly relocated, or exterminated altogether. “One cannot talk about the economic growth of the country without acknowledging that Africans were kidnaped, enslaved, and exploited for the financial gain of others. Arguably, these inequalities both stem from and exacerbate the individual, institutional, and systemic racism present in almost every facet of American life – from politics to economics and even the food system” (Washington & Williams, 2019).
In 2015, the USDA reported that “nearly 13% of U.S. households lack reliable access to sufficient quantities of affordable, nutritious food to lead a healthy life” (Coleman-Jensen et al., 2018). The USDA considers such households to be “food insecure.” The data also indicated that “while food insecurity varies in severity, and is present in every American county, the rates are considerably higher in Black, Hispanic, and Native American households” (Ammons et al., 2018).
History showed that during Reconstruction, the “except as punishment for a crime” clause in the 13th amendment to the United States Constitution allowed Southern gentry to incarcerate newly freed black people and force them to return and work in the fields from which they were recently liberated. The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) practice of “denying of loans, grants, land use, and technical support to African American and other minority farmers while approving the same for white farmers created, sustained, and expanded significant disparities” (Hinson and Robinson, 2008). These policies allowed plantation owners to survive the loss of its free labour force and allowed white farmers more options for industrialization, scientific advancement, and increasingly complex regulation.
“These things combined to create the disparity people of colour confront today in the system responsible for cultivating, sustaining, regulating, and distributing the America Nation’s food supply. Today, things like food deserts continue to permeate communities of colour” (Hilmers et al., 2012). Food deserts are defined in socio-economic: that is, they are most commonly found in communities of colour and low-income areas (where many people don’t have cars). Studies have found that wealthy districts have three times as many supermarkets as poor ones do, that white neighbourhoods contain an average of four times as many supermarkets as predominantly black ones do, and that grocery stores in Black communities are usually smaller with less selection. People’s choices about what to eat are severely limited by the options available to them and what they can afford, and many food deserts contain an overabundance of fast-food chains selling cheap “meat” and dairy-based foods that are high in fat, sugar, and salt. Processed foods (such as snack cakes, chips, and soda) typically sold by corner delis, convenience stores and liquor stores are usually just as unhealthy.
There is even term coined by food sovereignty leader Karen Washington to illuminate the root causes behind what the U.S. government calls “food deserts”, where limited access to affordable, healthy food is driven by systemic racism and leads to increased rates of chronic disease in Black, Indigenous, and other communities of colour. The term is food apartheid and same is explained as a system of segregation that divides those with access to an abundance of nutritious food and those who have been denied that access due to systemic injustice.
Food racism is present in different parts of the world and increase of the same is quite visible in world crisis situations. According to IPR Rapid search report from 2020 “during the COVID-19 crisis, rates of food insecurity among Black households with children are nearly twice as high as they are among White households with children in the Census Household Pulse Survey. Rates for Hispanic respondents are 60% higher than they are among Whites” (Schanzenbach & Pitts, 2020).
In connection with the COVID-19 crisis, the suspected source of the virus was at the Wuhan wet market where “suspicious” food products from wild animals are sold. Many Westerners blamed the Chinese, and specifically their eating habits for the coronavirus outbreak. Main reason for doing so was the video of Chinese woman eating bat soup (bats were identified as a possible carrier of coronavirus) at a Wuhan restaurant. But video actually was recorded four years before in Palau by internet celebrity Wang Mengyun. James Palmer a deputy editor at Foreign Policy wrote in article – the American media has long portrayed Chinese people as “dirty” carriers of disease, citing an 1854 New York Daily Tribune article that claimed Chinese people were “uncivilized, unclean, filthy beyond all conception”. Those ideas haven’t gone away, they are relying on old racist tropes and fuelling fears about the ways Asian people eat (Makalintal, 2020).
For Indian people situation is quite similar when it comes to the topic of food racism. Food and consumption practices in India produce a distinctive social and political order founded on race and caste hierarchies. This, in turn, intimately shapes interpersonal relations and lays down moral values that actively reproduce caste hierarchies and racial prejudices. Everyday racism for migrants from Northeast India in metropolitan cities across India is routine. Most of their accounts about racism and casteism have been centred on food choices such as fermented beans, plants, fishes, and meat. Unlike the vegetarian (to denote the upper caste Hindus) and non-vegetarian distinctions (to denote other caste/religious groups) (Hansen 2001; Holwitt 2017), the racism against people from Northeast India is because of the “smelly” food they cook and eat. For instance, in 2007, the Delhi Police brought out resources such as booklets and awareness campaigns that highlighted how migrants’ cooking and eating smelly food were disturbing the social order and peace (Dholabhai, 2007). Reinforced as dirty and lacking taste and aesthetics within caste logic, casteism and racism determines the relationship between everyday practices of food and consumption (Kikon, 2021).
Previous examples of food racism all over the world, in different cultures, ethnicities and gender, increases the attention on this topic. Although there are proposed solutions in majority of papers and works describing this topic, none of them explicitly mentioned the connection with the food safety systems and standards.
FOOD RACISM AND DISCRIMINATION – REQUIREMENTS OF FOOD SAFETY STANDARDS
Food safety is considered by many consumers as integrative part of food served or offered on retail shelves. Consumer in this sense does not ask is the food safe, just believes that offered food is safe. Recent times has shown that consumers became aware of the product labels and that they check the expiry date of the product, list of ingredients and nutritive values.
When we question food safety as aspect in connection to food insecurity, racism, discrimination, and other topics mentioned in previous chapters of this work, we come to similar situation as with the “regular” consumers, food safety is considered as existing, and no one is questioning safety of provided products.
Yes, in the definition mentioned before, the right to adequate food is “the availability of food in a quantity and quality sufficient to satisfy the dietary needs of individuals, free from adverse substances, and acceptable within a given culture; the accessibility of such food in ways that are sustainable and that do not interfere with the enjoyment of other human rights” (Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1999), and food safety is hidden under “food in a quantity and quality”, and “free from adverse substances”. Still, when it comes to the food, we can not consider only that safe food is available, meaning provided in safe condition from producers, or transported and storage under food safety rules by food providers, we need to consider final step which is preparation and serving done in a food safety manner. So, in this case, food safety should be transparently mentioned in definition as starting point for all involved in provision of adequate food.
Providing enough food comes along with the necessity that food is safe, and this obligation is on all food business operators – FBO. To help FBO understand how to make safe food, standards are developed. Starting from the basic HACCP system to more complex food standards like ISO 22000, FSSC 22000, IFS, BRC, SQF, problematics of food hazards, non-intentional and intentional food contamination or fraudulent activities are covered. Standards and their requirements are under constant development and improvements. In recent times central place in standards is given to requirement of food safety culture, as it is considered that having food safety system in food production is not same as understanding the food safety system and having awareness about all aspects of production or handling safe food products.
Due to the fact that in the world probably all FBO have some kind of food standard, food standard owners and working groups consider that adding new requirement can make a difference, thus adding topic of sustainability and environmental protection among other. According to this, adding of topics like food discrimination and racism in food safety standard requirements has sense.
All food standards have requirement that top management defined company Food safety Policy and strategy. This is requirement 5.2 of ISO 22000, or 1.1 in IFS Food. Food safety Policy is defined in order to communicate internally and externally company commitment for constant improvement of food safety management system – FSMS. If topics of food discrimination and racism are covered in the Policy, this for sure could be a good step for company to present their intention to do what is needed to prevent discrimination and racism of happening ither in their own company and/or by providing food to the endangered people and/or sensitive groups.
Interesting is the 6.1 of ISO 22000, requirement for the company to determine the risks and opportunities. In the context of the standard document the concept of risks and opportunities is limited to events and their consequences relating to the performance and effectiveness of the FSMS. Companies like Himalaya, Air India, Haldiram and even Mc Donald’s would have so much help and potentially could avoid finding themself in social media controversy under #boycottHalalProducts if only their risk and opportunity analysis considered the potential racism and discrimination in India over halal certification, labelling or even hiding use of halal ingredients in food products. So, requirement for risk and opportunity analysis already exists in food safety standard, it is only on the company part to include in their analysis potential issues when labelling, distribution or providing food to market in connection with racism and/or discrimination.
Other requirements of the ISO 22000 could also bi connected with the topic. Starting from the requirement 7.1.2 which is considering people/employees, there employment process can be included due to the situation were today many companies are employing migrants from different part of the world which could lead to racism and/or discrimination by existing employees or by customers/suppliers of the company or potentially by other social or political groups. In this case company should develop mechanisms to integrate new employees in company and teams through the properly developed HR processes and training models.
On the other hand, some more specific product requirement in ISO 22000 is 8.2.4 which is prerequisite programs in production considering product information/consumer awareness. This case can be connected with requirements of product development additionally (requirement in all food safety certification schemes). Idea would be that labelling design, statements and claims on final product or product developed is questioned from the point of view does some of them communicate with consumer in such way that they could be understood as racial and/or discriminatory. Situation that happened in 2021 was that the Movement for Black Lives has attacked racist food brands as part of response to murder of George Floyd (African-American man who was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, during an arrest after a store clerk suspected Floyd may have used a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill, on May 25, 2020). This led to the replacement of racist, stereotypical “spokes characters” on packaged foods, including Uncle Ben, Aunt Jemima, and Mia—the Native American “butter maiden” from Land O’Lakes.
In more complex food safety certification schemes that are GFSI recognized – FSSC 22000, IFS, BRC, SQF, specific requirements food defence and food fraud could also include topic of racism and discrimination. Food defence is requirement where companies need to assess threats that could lead to intentional contamination of food. In food defence definition intentional contamination is always resulted by people, or group of people with malicious and ideological motivation. In this case racial and/or discriminatory motivation can be taken into assessment as potential threat. These threats could come from terrorist or religious cult groups.
Food fraud could also be considered. Different from food defence, fraud with food products is often considered as intentional, but with different motivation of earning profit. In this case companies need to evaluate the potential vulnerabilities in their system where fraudulent activities could happen. Fraudulent activities in food include acts as substitution, dilution, false labelling etc. Even do earning money is main motivation, behind that racial and/or discriminatory basic can be involved and as such should be evaluated in the food fraud vulnerability assessment. Situations happened with some irresponsible producers who exploit the halal food market by using the unrecognized or unauthorized halal logo in packaging of their products. There were also cases where non-Muslim producers label their products with fake Islamic brand names or symbols to attract Muslim consumers’ attention and trust towards buying their products. “Further, some food operators displayed Quranic verses or other Arabic characters on their premises as an indirect signal to attract Muslim consumers to come to their premises”
Supplying sufficient amounts of adequate food to complete human population remains challenge for the world. On the other side, there are so many successful initiatives to increase the amount of food and to provide same to people. Due to constant crisis in the world, like COVID-19, wars, environmental and sustainability issues supplying sufficient food remains constant threat to critical population and successful initiatives remain in the shadow of these crisis. Additionally rise of racial and discriminatory acts bring overall negativity and new problems to the story. Many of these acts are connected with the food which opened new chapter called food racism and/or discrimination.
One of the initiatives to help battle food racism and/or discrimination could be the integration of the topic to requirements of food safety standards. Food safety standards are respected almost by all food business operators (from farm producers, through distributors, to catering industries), and by adding requirement all FBOs would have to implement actions to prevent food racism and discrimination. In return awareness of this topic would increase and many problems from discriminatory product labelling to risks of racism acts due to supplying sensitive groups could be prevented. In this work potentials of integration to existing food standard requirements are presented and also examples on how companies can do that, so before working groups realize this should be formally added, it is on the food business operators to implement it by them self and become leaders of change.
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