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From farm to plate: Food safety is everyone’s business

The United Nations has declared 7 June the first World Food Safety Day to strengthen efforts to ensure what we eat is safe.

Every year, nearly one in 10 people in the world, about 600-million people, fall ill and 420,000 die after eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances. Unsafe food hinders development in many low- and middle-income economies, which lose around $95-billion in productivity associated with illness, disability, and premature death suffered by workers.

Food safety is everyone’s business, which is the theme for World Food Safety Day 2019. Food safety contributes to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

The United Nations has designated two of its agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), to lead efforts in promoting food safety around the world.
FAO and WHO are joining forces to assist countries to prevent, manage and respond to risks along the food supply chain, working with food producers, vendors, regulatory authorities and civil society stakeholders, whether the food is domestically produced or imported.

“Whether you are a farmer, farm supplier, food processor, transporter, marketer or consumer, food safety is your business,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said in a statement yesterday [Thursday]. “There is no food security without food safety.”

According to Professor Lise Korsten of the Centre of Excellence in Food Security, unsafe food may cause sickness and death. “Food can be unsafe if it has been tampered or contaminated by chemical or microbial pathogens during irrigation production, harvesting, packing, processing, cooking or distribution.”

She said more people are globally affected by unsafe food and this is negatively impacting on productivity and food security. “No country can be food secure if the national food supplies are unsafe and not fit for human consumption. Unsafe food also contributes to the global food waste problem and directly impacts on the health and wellbeing of the population,” said Korsten.

She said people should be aware and adequately informed about the food choices they make during purchase, preparation, storage and serving the food.

WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the deaths of the 420,000 people killed every year because of unsafe food are “entirely preventable”. “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.”

FAO and WHO emphasise the importance of everyone having access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, and said safe food is critical to promoting health and ending hunger – two of the primary aims of the Sustainable Development Goals.
According to FAO, safe food allows for suitable intake of nutrients and contributes to a healthy life, and investment in consumer food safety education has the potential to reduce foodborne disease and return savings of up to $10 for each dollar invested.

  • From today, every 7 June will be a time to highlight the benefits of safe food. World Food Safety Day was adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2018. The process was initiated by Costa Rica through the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is managed by FAO and WHO.
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