On 20 December 2018 the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 73/250 proclaiming a World Food Safety Day. Starting in 2019, every 7 June will be a time to celebrate the myriad benefits of safe food.
What is Food Safety
Food safety is the absence -- or safe, acceptable levels -- of hazards in food that may harm the health of consumers. Food-borne hazards can be microbiological, chemical or physical in nature and are often invisible to the plain eye: bacteria, viruses or pesticide residues are some examples.
Food safety has a critical role in assuring that food stays safe at every stage of the food chain - from production to harvest, processing, storage, distribution, all the way to preparation and consumption.
With an estimated 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually, unsafe food is a threat to human health and economies, disproportionally affecting vulnerable and marginalized people, especially women and children, populations affected by conflict, and migrants. An estimated three million people around the world -- in developed and developing countries -- die every year from food and waterborne disease. Food is the starting point for our energy, our health and our well-being. We often take for granted that it is safe, but in an increasingly complex and interconnected world where food value chains are growing longer, standards and regulations are that much more important in keeping us safe.
- Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health.
- Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.
- An estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years (DALYs).
- Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year.
- Diarrhoeal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230 000 deaths every year.
- Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick.
- Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade.
- Food supply chains now cross multiple national borders. Good collaboration between governments, producers and consumers helps ensure food safety.
Call for action
- Ensure it’s safe - Governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all National governments are critical in guaranteeing that we all can eat safe and nutritious food. Policy makers can promote sustainable agriculture and food systems, fostering multi-sectoral collaboration among public health, animal health, agriculture and other sectors. Food safety authorities can manage food safety risks along the entire food chain, including during emergencies. Countries can comply with international standards established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
- Grow it safe - Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices Farming practices must ensure a sufficient supply of safe food at a global level today while at the same time mitigating climate change and minimizing environmental impacts for tomorrow. As food production systems transform to adapt to changing conditions, farmers must carefully consider optimal ways to address potential risks to ensure that food is safe.
- Keep it safe - Business operators must make sure food is safe Preventive controls can address most of food safety problems. Everyone involved in food operations – from processing to retail – must ensure compliance with programmes like HACCP, a system that identifies, evaluates and controls hazards which are significant for food safety from primary production to final consumption. Additionally, good processing, storage and preservation help retain nutritional value and food safety as well as reduce post-harvest losses.
- Check it’s safe - All consumers have a right to safe, healthy and nutritious food Consumers have the power to drive change. They need to be empowered to make healthy food choices for themselves and support sustainable food systems for the planet. Given the complexity of food safety, consumers need access to timely, clear and reliable information about the nutritional and disease risks associated with their food choices. Unsafe food and unhealthy dietary choices swell the global burden of disease
- Team up for safety - Food safety is a shared responsibility The diverse group that share responsibility for food 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 issues that affect us all, globally, regionally and locally. Collaboration is needed at many levels – across sectors within a government and across borders when combatting outbreaks of foodborne illness globally.a
2021 Theme: Food Safety, Everyone’s Business
The key messages imclude
- There is no food security without food safety - If it is not safe, it is not food. Only when food is safe will it meet dietary needs and help ensure that everyone can live an active and healthy life. This is also referred to as the utilization dimension of food security.
- Safe food is essential to human health and well-being - The World Health Organization estimates that more than 600 million people fall ill and 420 000 die every year from eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. However, these numbers represent only ‘the tip of the iceberg’ as comprehensive surveillance data for foodborne illnesses is not available everywhere. When food is not safe, humans cannot benefit from its nutritional value and cannot grow and develop.
- Investing in food safety today will reap future rewards - Safe food production improves economic opportunities by enabling market access and productivity. At the same time, good practices along the supply chain improve sustainability, minimizing environmental damage and the amount of agricultural product that has to be discarded. Unsafe or contaminated food leads to trade rejections, economic losses and food loss and waste.
- The ‘One Health’ approach improves food safety - Food safety requires a holistic approach, such as ‘One Health’, which recognizes the connection between the health of people, animals, plants and the environment. Animal and plant health are critical to agriculture producing enough food to feed the world. Keeping animals healthy will also minimize the risk of zoonotic pathogens (disease-causing organisms that can be transmitted between animals and humans), antimicrobial resistant organisms and more.
- Food safety is based on science - Looking at or smelling food is not a reliable way to check if it is safe, but scientists have developed tests and tools to do so. Food scientists, microbiologists, veterinarians, medical doctors and toxicologists, to name a few, advise what food production, processing, handling and preparation practices are needed to make and keep food safe. When food safety practices are employed across the food chain, the result is safe food.
Food Safety and Sustainable Development Goals
Food safety is key to achieving several of the Sustainable Development Goals and World Food Safety Day brings it into the spotlight, to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks. Safe food contributes to economic prosperity, boosting agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.
- Goal 2 — There is no food security without food safety. Ending hunger is about all people having access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.
- Goal 3 — Food safety has a direct impact on people’s health and nutritional intake. Foodborne diseases are preventable.
- Goal 12 — When countries strengthen their regulatory, scientific and technological capacities to ensure that food is safe and of the expected quality throughout the food chain, they move towards more sustainable patterns of food production and consumption.
- Goal 17 — A globalized world with annual food exports currently in excess of USD 1.6 trillion and complex food systems demands international cooperation across sectors to ensure food is safe. Food safety is a shared responsibility among governments, food industries, producers and consumers.
Source : UN
- FAO - Campaign materials
- WHO - Campaign materials