The United Nations has developed a guide to discuss why food safety is necessary and how it could be achieved
June 7 is set to be celebrated as the first World Food Safety Day. This was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2018. This year’s theme is ‘Food Safety, everyone's business’.
The United Nations has designated two of its agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) — to lead efforts in promoting food safety around the world. The regional office of FAO has encouraged each country to celebrate the day to advocate the importance of food safety.
The UN has developed a guide to discuss why food safety is necessary and how it could be achieved. The guide has five key points:
1. Safe governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all: Governments should guarantee safe and nutritious food. The policymakers should promote more sustainable solutions in sectors like agriculture and food systems, like the public distribution system (PDS), mid-day meals, and multi-sectoral collaboration between public health, animal health and agriculture. Food safety authorities can manage food safety risks along the entire food chain, including emergencies.
2. Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices: Governments should encourage farmers to shift to more sustainable farming practices and reduce usage of chemicals within the farming system. Also precautionary measures should be taken to avoid leaching of chemicals from the industries in to the farm lands. For example, dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which are unwanted by-products of industrial processes, are found in the environment and get accumulated in animal food chains.
These chemicals can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and cause cancer. Further, heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury cause neurological and kidney damage, and contaminate the air, water and soil.
3. Business operators must make sure food is safe: All stakeholders, who are dealing with food, much ensure certified hygiene practices like Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP), Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), etc. By following such hygiene practices food-borne illness can be avoided, as “unsafe food containing harmful bacteria and viruses cause more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.”
The UN states that “almost one in 10 people across the world fall ill after eating contaminated food and 4,20,000 people die every year because of food-borne illness.” Good processing, storage and preservation can help retain nutritional value and food safety as well as reduce post-harvest losses, states the guide.
4. All consumers have a right to safe, healthy and nutritious food: Consumers should be given appropriate information about the food which they consume. This will help them make informed decisions and avoid complexities caused due to food allergies
5. Food safety is a shared responsibility: The respective regional governments, regional economic bodies, UN organisations, development agencies, trade organisations, consumer and producer groups, academic and research institutions as well as private sector entities should come together and work on issues that are prevalent at both regional and global levels; for example, the spread of Anti-Microbial Resistant bacteria (AMR)
This action-oriented campaign will promote global food safety awareness and calls upon countries and decision makers, the private sector, civil society, UN organisations and the general public to take action.
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