A range of events, speeches, and webinars took place this past week to mark World Food Safety Day. Below, Food Safety News summarizes the best bits to mark the occasion.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that every day, 1.6 million people, on average, get sick due to the consumption of unsafe food.

The theme for World Food Safety Day on June 7 was “Prepare for the Unexpected.” It also coincided with the 20th anniversary of the FAO and WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN).

“Food safety hazards know no borders. In our interconnected, global food supply, risks from unsafe food can quickly escalate from local issues to international emergencies,” said Francesco Branca, director of the WHO Department of Nutrition and Food Safety.

“The theme emphasizes the importance of readiness in managing food safety incidents to prevent them from becoming emergencies. It highlights the need for careful planning, preparation, and swift action in emergencies. Humanitarian crises in many parts of the world, such as the Gaza Strip, Ukraine, and Sudan, drive food insecurity and compromise food safety. Our global food system is only as strong as its weakest link.”

Regional perspective

The Southeast Asia region has the second-highest health burden due to the consumption of contaminated food, with an estimated 150 million illnesses and 175,000 deaths annually.

Saima Wazed, WHO regional director for Southeast Asia, said everyone was a risk manager.

“We all evaluate food safety risks as part of our daily choices. These choices are made by individuals and collectively by families, communities, businesses, and governments. Let us commit to doing our part to draw attention to and inspire action toward preventing, detecting, and managing foodborne risks,” she said. 

“Food safety incidents can range from minor events to major international crises, whether it is a power outage at home, food poisoning at a local restaurant, a voluntary recall of contaminated products by a manufacturer, an outbreak from imported products, or a natural disaster.”

According to WHO estimates published in 2015, 100 million people living in the Eastern Mediterranean region experience foodborne illness each year, and 32 million cases are children under the age of 5.

Foodborne diarrheal diseases caused by pathogens make up 70 percent of the disease burden, and about 37,000 people a year die from eating unsafe food in the region.

Public health challenges stem from climate change-related events like heatwaves, drought, and flooding. Humanitarian crises, other emergencies, and political instability also have an impact.

Workshop in Kyrgyzstan

To raise awareness of proper food safety and management, a workshop was held on World Food Safety Day in Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan.

Speakers presented the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) system and discussed risk identification and monitoring.

“The good news is that we can prevent food poisoning by using safety measures. However, because many people are involved in getting food to us, keeping it safe is not always easy,” said Almaz Kadyraliev from the Kyrgyz Economic University.

The event was organized as part of a Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) project funded by the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF).

“Every meal, every snack, every time dishes are prepared, whenever foods are grown, produced and transported – all of these are moments when food safety must be prioritized. When more people know about food safety, we can take better actions to keep our food safe,” said Bermet Jurupova, an FAO food safety expert.

Food safety at events

Renata Clarke, sub-regional coordinator for the Caribbean at FAO, and Dr. Lisa Indar, director at CARPHA, focused on the potential “disastrous” reputational impact if there were frequent reports of foodborne illness in the region, which is currently hosting a Cricket World Cup.

The Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) helped conduct food safety training for almost 900 vendors from the six Caribbean host countries who will sell food at and around cricket stadiums and nearly 400 people from the hospitality sector.

“Many Caribbean countries have demonstrated vigilance and proactivity in identifying potential breaches of food safety in light of the upcoming large crowds drawn to the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup events. With the expectation of greatly increased numbers of street food vendors and customers, ministries of health and food safety authorities have emphasized updating food safety training to vendors and food safety awareness for consumers,” said Clarke and Indar.

“Governments continuously review and update food standards to assure an acceptable level of public health protection in light of new and emerging information. They also regularly update processes and regulations to ensure the food industry meets expected standards. Several Caribbean countries have undergone rigorous assessments of their food safety and quality control systems over the last two years in the spirit of continuous improvement. Food safety is too important to allow complacency.”

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