Almost 100 comments have been submitted on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) draft food safety strategy.

A total of 99 responses were submitted, mainly from government or ministries officers, followed by the private sector, NGOs and academic institutions, United Nations agencies and other IGOs and individuals.

The draft strategy for 2022 to 2030 is as a blueprint for member states to strengthen national food safety systems, promote regional and global cooperation and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases.

Preparing draft strategy
After being asked to update the 2002 strategy this past year, the World Health Organization established a Technical Advisory Group on food safety. In total, 24 experts representing WHO’s six regions were selected to provide technical advice on the refresh.

The update is needed to integrate food safety into national and regional policies on health, agriculture, trade, environment and development.

Two virtual meetings of the group were held in February and April to discuss the structure and content of the plan and offer guidance. From May to July, WHO launched a public web-based consultation on the draft updated strategy to get feedback.

It was recognized that the food safety systems of many countries need significant improvement in areas such as regulatory infrastructure, enforcement, surveillance, inspection and laboratory capacity and capability, emergency response and education and training.

Responding nations were the United States, Canada, Columbia, Chile, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, Oman, United Arab Emirates as well as comments from the European Commission.

Main themes from feedback
Some respondents expressed concerns that the strategy is not focused enough on food safety and tries to cover nutrition and antimicrobial resistance. Some topics such as food allergens and chemical hazards and risks like aflatoxin were not or rarely mentioned. They said while it highlights the short-term health issues of unsafe food, there is a lack of links to the long-term health effects on child growth and development.

All comments welcomed the setting of global indicators and targets but concerns were also expressed. Some said the targets were too ambitious and should consider the impact of COVID-19 while others wanted a tiered approach given the different regional and national starting points.

Submissions praised the mention of a One Health approach in the draft. However, it should highlight foodborne pathogens and how they move between the environment, animals, and humans.

The section on emerging technologies was not balanced enough with promotion of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) questioned by respondents. They said more consideration should be given to the feasibility of adopting new technologies in low resource settings.

People said it was important to show how it will interact with the FAO’s food safety strategy, also due for publication in 2022, and other international organizations.

The WHO global strategy for food safety will be submitted to the executive board meeting in 2022.

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