Food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals is responsible for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Potential new threats to food safety are emerging all the time. Changes to the way food is produced, distributed and consumed, the emergence of resistant bacteria, and increases in travel and trade make it difficult to manage pathogens and contaminants once they are in our food supply.
Unsafe food is a largely under-reported and often overlooked global problem. With the food supply chain stretching around the world, the need to strengthen food safety systems within and among countries is becoming more critical. That is why, on World Health Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling on countries and all actors to improve food safety from farm to plate and everywhere in between.
The production of safe food is important for economies – it fosters trade and tourism and supports food security and sustainable development. Food safety is also important for education – sick children miss school, and it is at school that the next generation of consumers can learn basic food safety practices.
WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) work together to set international standards for safe food. They assess the safety of new food technologies, and help countries to prevent, detect and respond to outbreaks of food-borne disease. These agencies also help countries build their own capacity to predict and manage food-borne disease risks.
All people involved in the production, distribution, and preparation of food must play their part to make food safe. Governments must communicate the importance of food safety to their citizens. The health, agriculture, trade, and environment sectors need to work together.
On World Health Day, let us all ask: how safe is our food? We all have a role to play in keeping food safe – from farm to plate.