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World Food Safety Day

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 420 000 people around the world die every year after eating contaminated food and children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year.

Key facts

  • One in ten people worldwide fall ill from contaminated food each year.
  • The magnitude of the public health burden due to foodborne diseases is comparable to that of malaria or HIV AIDS
  • Over 200 diseases are caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances such as heavy metals
  • Antimicrobial resistant microbes can be transmitted through the food chain, via direct contact between animals and humans or through the environment.
    Each year, an estimated 700 000 people die around the globe because of antimicrobial resistant infections.
  • Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year.
  • Foodborne parasitic diseases can cause both acute and chronic health problems. The estimated number of illnesses from 11 main parasitic diseases
    is 48.4 million per year, 48 percent of which are transmitted through food.
  • Children under the age of five are at a higher risk of malnutrition and mortality due to unsafe food and carry 40 percent of the foodborne disease
    burden. Unsafe food caused one in six deaths from diarrhoea, a major killer in this age group.
  • Safe and nutritious foods benefit child growth and development by improving intellectual and physical potential, as well as increasing school performance and work productivity in adult life.
  • If there are no contraindications, exclusive breastfeeding is the safest way to feed infants during the first six months of life.
  • The production of safe food reduces food loss and waste and benefits the planet.
  • Safe food benefits the economy by increasing productivity, allowing prosperous national food markets and stable food exports and trade. It reduces the
    strain on health care systems.
  • The safety of food is affected by the health of animals, plants and the environment within which it is produced. Adopting a holistic One Health approach to food safety will deliver a better food safety system.
  • 188 countries and one member organization (the European Union) have negotiated science-based recommendations in all areas related to food safety and quality, Codex Alimentarius standards, which ensure that food is safe and can be traded.
  • Food safety contributes to the achievement of the SDGs and is a truly cross-cutting area.

Call for action

  1. If it is not safe, it is not food : There is no food security without food safety. Only when food is safe will it meet nutritional needs and help adults to live an active and healthy life and children to grow and develop.
  2. Food safety has a direct impact on health : Safe food allows for the uptake of nutrients, promotes long-term human development and achievement of SDGs. Most foodborne disease is preventable with proper food handling and education
  3. Everyone is a risk manager : Everyone evaluates food safety risks as part of their daily choices. These choices are made by individuals and collectively
    by families, communities, businesses and governments
  4. Food safety is based on science : Consumers usually cannot tell from sight or smell whether their food is safe, but scientists have developed tests and tools to detect unsafe food. 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 food safe. When safe practices are employed across the food chain, food becomes safe.
  5. Strengthening collaboration improves food safety : Shared responsibility for food safety requires working together on issues that affect us all – globally, regionally, nationally and locally. Collaboration is essential across sectors within communities, businesses, governments and across borders, to ensure the availability of safe food around the world in a sustainable manner now and in the future.
  6. Investing in food safety today will reap future rewards : Safe food production improves economic opportunities by enabling market access and
    productivity. However, unsafe or contaminated food leads to trade rejections, economic losses and food loss and waste. Therefore, good practices
    along the supply chain can improve sustainability by minimizing environmental damage and helping to retain more agricultural product.

2023 Theme: Food safety saves lives

Food safety saves lives. It is not only a crucial component to food security, but it also plays a vital role in reducing foodborne disease. Every year, 600 million people fall sick as a result of around 200 different types of foodborne illness. The burden of such illness falls most heavily on the poor and on the young. In addition, foodborne illness is responsible for 420 000 preventable deaths every year.

When you eat, how do you know your food is safe?

You have probably washed your hands, cleaned your kitchenware and cooked your food to the right temperature, all good food safety practices. You have probably read food packaging labels to see what ingredients the product contains or how to cook it. And perhaps without realizing it, you have trusted everyone involved in growing, processing, packaging, distributing and preparing your food in the right way so that you can enjoy it without falling ill. Your food was safe and your trust justified because the people involved in making your food - whether close to your home or on the other side of the world - followed established food safety practices, which are transparently available in the form of standards. In other words, food standards form the bedrock of trust for all of us.

Food standards are a way of ensuring safety and quality.

They provide guidance on hygienic food handling for farmers and processors. They define the maximum levels of additives, contaminants, residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs that can safely be consumed by all. Furthermore, standards specify how the food should be measured, packaged and transported to keep it safe. Thanks to the application of standards on things like nutrition and allergen labelling, consumers can know whether the food will be good for them.

Most governments and organizations adopt and enforce food standards that are based on scientific risk assessments, covering hazards that are biological, chemical and physical in nature. The standards can be developed by individual governments or organizations, or by regional or intergovernmental standard-setting bodies. One such international food safety and quality standard-setting body is the Codex Alimentarius Commission, or Codex for short. Codex is the place where representatives of 188 Member Countries and 1 Member Organization (the European Union) work together to make sure food is safe.

Codex operates with a mandate to protect consumer health and ensure fair practices in the food trade. Technical committees work to develop texts for standards, guidelines and codes of practice in a transparent and inclusive manner. Underpinned by scientific advice from global expert groups led by FAO and WHO, the texts are developed with input from 243 observer organizations, including industry and consumer associations.; Used by governments and the food industry, Codex standards guide national food safety legislation and ensure best practices. The World Trade Organization also uses Codex standards as benchmarks. If your food comes from abroad, it has to meet these standards. Codex standards are at the heart of food safety. They have been for six decades. Each year the‘food code’grows – new standards are introduced and existing standards are updated when new data becomes available. In 2023, as Codex turns 60, we celebrate food standards for defining the path to safe food for everyone everywhere.

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

Related resources

  1. FAO - Campaign materials
  2. WHO - Campaign materials

Last Modified : 6/6/2023

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