The World Health Organization is promoting the first-ever World Food Safety Day, a United Nations initiative rooted in the theme that “food safety is everyone’s business.”
Every year, an estimated 600 million people become ill after eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances. Unsafe food also hinders development in many low- and middle-income economies, which lose around US$95 billion in productivity associated with illness, disability and premature death suffered by workers, WHO said in its statement.
“Unsafe food kills an estimated 420,000 people every year. These deaths are entirely preventable,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General. “World Food Safety Day is a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of unsafe food with governments, producers, handlers and consumers. From farm to plate, we all have a role to play in making food safe.”
The UN designated two agencies, WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), to lead the effort on improving safety all along the food supply chain. They’re working with countries and their farmers, suppliers, processors and vendors to ensure both food security and food safety are achieved.
Growing populations, urbanization, travel and changing agricultural practices contribute to the challenge. “Climate change is also predicted to impact food safety, where temperature changes modify food safety risks associated with food production, storage and distribution,” said WHO.
Who has released a new fact sheet on food safety and foodborne illnesses. It includes details on bacterial infections like salmonella or cholera, parasite threats and other causes. Highlighted in the fact sheet are toxic chemicals – some naturally occurring, like toxins found in mushrooms or grains, and others caused by heavy metals and other pollution.
There’s also a new communications guide from FAO.
Image: WHO Africa