The World Celebrates World Health Day

The World Health Organization, WHO, celebrates its annual World Health Day on Tuesday, April 7, 2015, highlighting the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety under the slogan, “from farm to plate, make food safe.”

According to the WHO, the harm caused by food borne illnesses indicate the global threats posed by unsafe foods, and the need for coordinated, cross-border action across the entire food supply chain is needed.

Today, WHO is issuing the first findings from what is a broader ongoing analysis of the global burden of food borne diseases. The full results of this research, being undertaken by WHO’s Food borne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group, FERG, is expected to be released in October 2015.

Margaret Chan, director general, WHO, says “Food production has been industrialized and its trade and distribution have been globalized therefore, these changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.”

Chan added that “local food safety problem can rapidly become an international emergency. Investigation of an outbreak of food borne disease is vastly more complicated when a single plate or package of food contains ingredients from multiple countries.”

Unsafe food can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, and cause more than 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Examples of unsafe food include undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.

Therefore efforts to prevent such emergencies can be strengthened, however, through development of robust food safety systems that drive collective government and public action to safeguard against chemical or microbial contamination of food.

Global and national level measures can be taken, including using international platforms, like the joint WHO-FAO International Food Safety Authorities Network INFOSAN, to ensure effective and rapid communication during food safety emergency.

Dr Kazuaki Miyagishima, Director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety also added that, “It often takes a crisis for the collective consciousness on food safety to be stirred and any serious response to be taken.

“The impacts on public health and economies can be great. Therefore a sustainable response is needed to ensures standards, checks and networks are in place to protect against food safety risks.”

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