WHO merits much kudos for accelerating global efforts on food safety

07Jun 2020
The Guardian
WHO merits much kudos for accelerating global efforts on food safety

Food safety is the absence or safe, acceptable levels of hazards in food that may harm the health of consumers. Food safety has a critical role in ensuring 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. In December 2018, cognizant of the urgent need to raise awareness at all levels and to promote and facilitate actions for global food safety, the UN General Assembly designated 7 June as World Food Safety Day.

Under the theme “Food safety, everyone’s business”, World Food Safety Day 2020 will promote global food safety awareness and call upon countries and decision makers, the private sector, civil society, UN organisations and the general public to take action.

As markets become global, and as food production chains fragment across countries, WHO and other organisations actions to achieve food safety must be multisectoral. Indeed we need to review the status of food safety in the world and identified new and emerging challenges. We have to highlight the need to mainstream food safety to advance public health goals, raise the profile of food safety in the governing bodies of both WHO and FAO and ensure sustainable funding for scientific advice. Food safety has been part of the WHO Constitution since its adoption. Over the past decades, major food safety crises, such as the epidemic and outbreaks had affected many countries, have profoundly influenced or reshaped food safety policies and national food control systems. Increasing global trade in food and animal feed have likewise highlighted the importance of managing food safety at the international level. Member states have requested the WHO Secretariat to implement a number of activities to promote and strengthen food safety worldwide which had resulted in the WHO global strategy for food safety: safer food for better health.

As WHO attributes a large proportion of the public health burden and economic costs can be avoided by adopting preventive interventions in the food chain –from primary food production, storage and processing through to the point of final preparation and consumption –combined with improved food safety management at the national, regional and global levels, including contamination monitoring, disease and outbreak surveillance, laboratory diagnoses and food traceability and recall systems. Some of these measures should be implemented by governments and local authorities, while others should be implemented by the private sector and consumers. Foodborne disease generally is subject to huge underreporting.

Food safety interventions contribute to attaining Sustainable Development Goals targets and improving the indicators of the Thirteenth General Programme of Work, 2019–2023, such as infant mortality or cancer mortality, which are multifactorial and not solely dependent on food safety. Lack of specific indicators to measure progress and prioritize areas for action in food safety is seen as a challenge to quantifying the magnitude of the foodborne disease burden and building up the necessary investments in food safety systems

W strongly support WHO’s response to reduce the burden of foodborne diseases working to protect the health of consumers by providing first, normative frameworks, second,science-based policy guidance, third consolidated health-related data fourth, technical assistance and cooperation and finally public health leadership.

Without reservations we hail WHO’s international risk assessments supported by the collection of food contamination data that are representative of different regions and diets. WHO is home to the Global Environment Monitoring System –Food Contamination Monitoring and Assessment Programme which informs governments.

Top Stories