With evidence piling up about the damaging effects of environmental factors on food, protecting our food chain supplies, all the way from the production, processing, distribution, and consumption is one of the challenges of the race to combating climate change. This is a matter that concerns everyone since human health concerns everybody.
The COVID-19 pandemic showed us how rapidly things can get out of hand and how important it is to be prepare. This World Food Safety Day, celebrated every June 7th, is a day to reflect on our role in safeguarding our food system. This year’s theme couldn’t better communicate the pressing matter: “Safe food today for a healthy tomorrow.”
World Food Safety Day intends to help prevent, detect, and manage foodborne risks caused by food contaminated with pathogenic microorganisms or toxic substances. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that over 200 diseases are caused by eating food infected with bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances such as heavy metals. This increasingly public health issue affects healthcare systems and significantly impacts the levels of mortality worldwide, especially among children in low- and middle-income countries.
Most of the diseases caused by foodborne are gastrointestinal focused. However, it can also produce neurological, gynecological, and immunological symptoms. According to WHO, around 600 million, or one in 10 people, develop an illness due to contaminated food. The rate of deaths caused by these diseases is no less troublesome. Here are a few key facts and data about food safety.
WHO: Food Safety Key Facts
- Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhea to cancers.
- An estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food, and 420,000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years (DALYs).
- US$110 billion is lost each year in productivity and medical expenses resulting from unsafe food in low- and middle-income countries.
- Children under five years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125,000 deaths every year.
- Diarrheal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from consuming contaminated food, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230,000 deaths every year.
- Food safety, nutrition, and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, the elderly, and the sick.
- Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism, and trade.
- Food supply chains now cross multiple national borders. Good collaboration between governments, producers, and consumers helps ensure food safety.
What Can We ALL Do?
Aligned with the decade of “Action on Nutrition,” declared by the United Nations -from 2016 to 2025- this is the time act. Here are 4 things to do in support of World Food Safety Day.
- Governments: Need to create and maintain the conditions to ensure safe and nutritious foods for everybody.
- Grow Safe: Farmers and food producers need to pledge to adopt good practices such as regenerative organic farming, eliminating chemicals and pesticides, making healthier soils and plants, and restoring food quality.
- Business: Must prevent food safety problems instead of reacting to them once they happen. Follow high standards of compliance and adopt safety best practices
- Consumers: Learn as much as you can so you can demand safe and healthy products.