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KNOWLEDGE FOR POLICY

Supporting policy with scientific evidence

We mobilise people and resources to create, curate, make sense of and use knowledge to inform policymaking across Europe.

Publication | 2022

Changing food systems and infectious disease risks in low-income and middle-income countries

The emergence of COVID-19 has drawn the attention of health researchers sharply back to the role that food systems can play in generating human disease burden. But emerging pandemic threats are just one dimension of the complex relationship between agriculture and infectious disease, which is evolving rapidly, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs) that are undergoing rapid food system transformation. We examine this changing relationship through four current disease issues. The first is that greater investment in irrigation to improve national food security raises risks of vector-borne disease, which we illustrate with the case of malaria and rice in Africa. The second is that the intensification of livestock production in LMICs brings risks of zoonotic diseases like cysticercosis, which need to be managed as consumer demand grows. The third is that the nutritional benefits of increasing supply of fresh vegetables, fruit, and animal-sourced foods in markets in LMICs pose new food-borne disease risks, which might undermine supply. The fourth issue is that the potential human health risks of antimicrobial resistance from agriculture are intensified by changing livestock production. For each disease issue, we explore how food system transition is creating unintentional infectious disease risks, and what solutions might exist for these problems. We show that successfully addressing all of these challenges requires a coordinated approach between public health and agricultural sectors, recognising the costs and benefits of disease-reducing interventions to both, and seeking win–win solutions that are most likely to attract broad policy support and uptake by food systems.