World Food Safety Day
Why improving food safety is important
Food safety saves lives. It is not only a crucial component of 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.
World Food Safety Day is an important way of:
- making people aware of food safety issues
- demonstrating how to prevent illness through food safety
- discussing collaborative approaches to improved food safety across sectors
- promoting solutions and ways of being more food safe
Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and often invisible to the plain eye, caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water.
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 marginalised 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.
World Food Safety Day on 7 June aims to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development. This international day is an opportunity to strengthen efforts to ensure that the food we eat is safe, mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases globally.
Food safety is everyone’s business
Everybody has a role to play from farm to table to ensure the food we consume is safe and will not cause damages to our health.
Under the theme “Food safety, everyone’s business”, the action-oriented campaign promotes global food safety awareness and calls upon countries and decision-makers, the private sector, civil society and the general public to take action.
The way in which food is produced, stored, handled and consumed affects the safety of our food. Complying with Global food standards, establishing effective regulatory food control systems including emergency preparedness and response, providing access to clean water, applying good agriculture practices (terrestrial, aquatic, livestock, horticulture), strengthening the use of food safety management systems by food business operators, and building capacities of consumers to make healthy food choices are some ways in which governments, international organisations, scientists, the private sector and civil society work to ensure food safety.
While COVID-19 has not been transmitted by food, the pandemic has sharpened the focus on food safety-related issues, such as hygiene, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, climate change, food fraud and the potential benefits of digitalising food systems. It has also identified weaknesses or vulnerabilities in food production and control systems. For the immediate future, minimising disruptions in the food supply chains remains one of the highest priorities of all governments, as consumers must have reliable access to food.
A risk-based approach to food safety and to meeting food safety requirements can help keep global food supplies open and enable consumer access to food. Concerted efforts on food safety will help countries mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic and boost their resilience for the long term by facilitating and accelerating food and agricultural trade, helping to prevent the next zoonotic pandemic and transforming food systems.
There are five calls to action on World Food Safety Day:
- Ensure it’s safe – Governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all
- Grow it safe – Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices
- Keep it safe – Business operators must make sure food is safe
- Know what’s safe – Consumers need to learn about safe and healthy food
- Team up for food safety – Let’s work together for safe food and good health!
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.
The World Health Organisation 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.
Safe food production improves economic opportunities by enabling market access and productivity. At the same time, good practices along the supply chain improve sustainability, minimising 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.
Food safety requires a holistic approach, such as ‘One Health’, which recognises 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 minimise the risk of zoonotic pathogens (disease-causing organisms that can be transmitted between animals and humans), antimicrobial-resistant organisms and more.