Food safety has been included in a One Health action plan published by four international agencies.

The document comes from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH, formerly OIE).

The first One Health Joint Plan of Action 2022 to 2026 aims to strengthen collaboration, communication, capacity building, and coordination in the human, animal, plant and environment sectors to better prevent, predict, detect, and respond to health threats.

As well as food safety risks, five other areas are covered including emerging and re-emerging zoonotic epidemics, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and the environment. 

The report notes a critical aspect related to the contamination of water, the environment and food as management of waste. Hazards, including zoonotic and non-zoonotic pathogens and chemical contaminants, can enter the food chain at any point, from before harvest to consumption.

“In addition to long-standing foodborne bacterial pathogens such as Salmonella, new pathogens are emerging, and many kinds of food have been associated with the transmission of disease. Pathogens and other hazards may contaminate food in the processing environment (such as) Listeria monocytogenes or unsafe levels of food additives, or through food workers, such as norovirus.”

Areas of food safety focus
The section on strengthening the assessment, management and communication of food safety risks wants to mainstream the One Health approach in food safety efforts.

It looks at how the four organizations will assist countries in establishing, implementing and strengthening national food control systems to help reduce the risks associated with unsafe food, ensuring food authenticity and enhancing fair and safe trade, including boosting sanitary and phytosanitary capacity. This includes supporting countries in doing a baseline assessment of their food control system and providing guidance to manage food safety risks.

The section aligns with other areas as food and live animals are subject to contamination or infection from the environment, foodborne bacteria are becoming more resistant to antimicrobials, some infections are new and emerging, while others such as cysticercosis, echinococcosis and foodborne trematodiases are neglected.

There was also a focus on the collection, utilization and interpretation of data. The aim was to help countries use scientific evidence and risk assessment in developing policy and legislation, in making risk management decisions to reduce the burden of foodborne diseases and ensure safer food, and in allocating resources to strengthen national safe food systems.

Another area was data on disease occurrence and the burden of foodborne hazards, combined with knowledge of chemical, microbial and physical source attribution to prioritize and assess control measures. An effective system to address foodborne infections requires the integration of human and animal disease surveillance with environmental and food monitoring.

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