Nearly 600 mn people fall ill, 420,000 die after eating contaminated food: UN says on first World Food Safety Day

ROME, The first ever celebration of the United Nations World Food Safety Day, to be marked globally on 7 June, aims to strengthen efforts to ensure that the food we eat is safe.

Every year, nearly one in ten people in the world (an estimated 600 million people) fall ill and 420,000 die after eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances. Unsafe food also hinders socioeconomic 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. Foodborne diseases impede development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism and trade.

The value of trade in food is US$ 1.6 trillion, which is approximately 10% of total annual trade globally. Children aged under 5 carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year.

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

The UN has designated two of its agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (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 and 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 Jose Graziano da Silva said. “There is no food security without food safety,” he said.

“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.”

FAO and WHO underline the importance of everyone’s access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, and that safe food is critical to promoting health and ending hunger, two of the primary aims of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Safe food allows for suitable intake of nutrients and contributes to a healthy life. Safe food production improves sustainability by enabling market access and productivity, which drives economic development and poverty alleviation, especially in rural areas.

Investment in consumer food safety education has the potential to reduce foodborne disease and return savings of up to $10 for each dollar invested.

Activities around the world for World Food Safety Day aim to inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne health risks.

The right actions along the food supply chain, from farmers to consumers, as well as good governance and regulations, are essential to food safety.

FAO and WHO have created a new guide to show how everyone can get involved. The guide includes five steps to make a sustained difference to food safety: Ensure it’s safe. Governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all.

Grow it safe. Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices.

Keep it safe. Business operators must make sure food is safely transported, stored and prepared.

Check it’s safe. Consumers need access to timely, clear and reliable information about the nutritional and disease risks associated with their food choices.

Team up for safety. Governments, regional economic bodies, UN organizations, development agencies, trade organizations, consumer and producer groups, academic and research institutions and private sector entities must work together on food safety issues.

Starting in 2019, every 7 June will be a time to highlight the benefits of safe food. World Food Safety Day was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018. The process was initiated in 2016 by Costa Rica through the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is managed by FAO and WHO.

Source: Emirates News Agency