Every year, 420,000 people lose their lives due to foodborne illnesses, with 1.6 million falling ill daily, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In light of World Food Safety Day, observed on June 7th, both agencies emphasize the importance of established food safety practices and standards to guarantee the safety of the food we consume. With over 200 diseases attributed to contaminated food, the prevention of foodborne illnesses is critical. Through collective efforts, policymakers, food businesses, educational institutions, workplaces, and consumers can contribute to a safer food environment.
Significance of Food Safety for Health:
Dr. Maria Neira, WHO Assistant Director-General, emphasizes that food safety directly impacts our well-being. Consumption of food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals can lead to various diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Recognizing that foodborne illnesses are preventable, Dr. Neira urges individuals to be mindful of food safety practices beyond instances of sickness. Safe food allows the absorption of essential nutrients and promotes overall human development. The objective is to prevent deaths resulting from food consumption, as they are entirely avoidable.
Call for Action and Collaborative Efforts:
The WHO calls upon various stakeholders to take action to address this issue. Policymakers are urged to establish robust national food safety systems that comply with internationally recognized standards. Food businesses are encouraged to foster a food safety culture by involving employees, suppliers, and other stakeholders. Educational institutions and workplaces play a vital role in promoting safe food handling practices. Additionally, consumers are urged to contribute by practicing safe food handling at home, including washing hands before meal preparation and using separate equipment for raw foods.
FAO's Initiatives: Empowering Small Businesses and Farmers:
In line with promoting food safety, the FAO is launching a website designed to help the food sector adhere to international food hygiene standards. This mobile-friendly "toolbox" aims to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in the food trade. Of particular focus are small businesses and farmers in developing countries, where mobile devices are more accessible than traditional computers. The website provides guidance on personal hygiene, such as educating visitors to food production sites, proper handwashing techniques, and appropriate clothing recommendations. Developed collaboratively by FAO Food Safety Officers and experts from the University of Guelph in Canada, the toolbox will be expanded in the future to cover additional sectors like fisheries, based on feedback and requirements.