Food safety is so important to everyone around the world that the World Health Organization (WHO) dedicated this year’s World Health Day — celebrated each year on April 7 — to spreading awareness of it. As readers of Food Safety News know, food contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances can lead to long-lasting disability and death. Foodborne and waterborne diarrheal diseases kill an estimated 2 million people annually, including many children and particularly in developing countries. WHO says that World Health Day 2015 is a chance to recognize the food safety role of all those involved in food production and to strengthen collaboration and coordination among these areas in order to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne diseases efficiently. The actual levels of foodborne diseases are estimated to be much higher than what gets reported, underlying the need for improved collaboration to lower risks. According to WHO, food safety is distinct from, but a prerequisite for, food security. “Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism and trade,” WHO says. “Food supply chains now cross multiple national borders.” Particularly challenging for maintaining food safety is that food producers are turning to intensified and industrialized systems to meet the increasing demand for food from a growing population. Climate change is also predicted to impact food safety where temperature changes modify food safety risks associated with food production, storage and distribution. WHO is using World Health Day to call on policymakers around the world to build and maintain adequate food safety systems and infrastructures, respond to and manage food safety risks along the entire food chain, integrate food safety into broader food policies and programs, and foster communication, information sharing, and joint action between public health, animal health, agriculture and other sectors. WorldHealthDay2015-1_406x250Consumers are advised to practice WHO’s Five Keys to Safer Food when handling and preparing food: keep clean, separate raw and cooked food, cook thoroughly, cook food at safe temperatures, and use safe water and raw materials. To help in spreading food safety awareness, WHO developed graphics, videos and fact sheets. The campaign tools were distributed in six languages and made ready for adaptation to regional contexts. There are also educational events being held around the world to celebrate World Health Day. Feature stories explore topics such as how women in El Salvador spread the word about food safety, safe food in Haiti’s rural schools, and street food in Vietnam. Experts from European organizations will host a Twitter chat through #safefoodchat on Tuesday from 14:00-15:00 CEST (8-9 a.m. EDT) to answer food safety questions and offer advice. The campaign’s general hashtag is #safefood. You can also test your food safety knowledge in a short online quiz. Michael Taylor, deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration wrote in a blog post Tuesday that the “farm to plate” theme for World Health Day is at the heart of the Food Safety Modernization Act. “Other countries as well are looking for ways to build preventive, modern food safety systems,” Taylor wrote. “Just two weeks ago, my colleagues and I were in India to meet with public health officials, regulators and representatives of industry. We all take the same position on food safety: As nations we must be strong individually and collectively, working in partnership to apply controls as foods increasingly cross multiple borders to reach foreign markets.” In his own blog post, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety Al Almanza also referenced some of the work the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been doing to improve food safety in recent years, including its new FoodKeeper app launched last week to help inform consumers about how to store food and beverages to maximize their freshness and quality. “FSIS, working with our partners in the United States and around the world, is accountable for preventing foodborne illness for over 300 million Americans and many consumers worldwide,” Almanza wrote. “USDA FSIS stands with WHO today and every day in ensuring that from farm to plate, food is safe and nutritious.”