Jointly facilitated by WHO and FAO, the World Food Safety Day was observed 7 June like every year in collaboration with the Member States and other relevant organizations. The 2021 theme "safe food now for a healthy tomorrow" reminds us all that the availability of safe and healthy food can be sustained into the future by embracing digital innovations, advancing scientific solutions, and honouring traditional knowledge that has stood the test of time.
Safe food now for a healthy tomorrow, stresses that production and consumption of safe food have immediate and long-term benefits for people, the planet, and the economy.
Recognizing the global burden of food-borne diseases, which affect individuals of Infant, in particular, children under-5, pregnant women, the elderly and those with an underlying illness are particularly vulnerable in low-income countries.
Food is essential to life, hence food safety is a basic human right. It is not only a crucial component of food security, but it also plays a vital role in reducing food-borne diseases. Every year, 600 million people fall sick as a result of around 200 different types of food-borne illnesses. The burden of such illness falls most heavily on the poor and the young. In addition, food-borne illness is responsible for 420 000 preventable deaths every year (FAO). With increasing rates of community transmission and new variants of Covid-19 being detected, one of the biggest challenges for the food industry – whether that be the manufacturer, distributor, or consumer-facing side – is worker’s health.
The food chain starts from farm to fork/plate while challenges include microbial, chemical, personal, and environmental hygiene. While earlier incidents were mainly chemical contaminants, more recent outbreaks have been due to microbial agents. The Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) attributed to these agents are most devastating to children younger than 5 years of age. The children are developing immune systems that are not always well equipped to fight infection; they are often smaller in size than adults, reducing the amount of pathogen needed to make them sick; and children have limited control over their diets and lack the developmental maturity necessary to carefully judge food safety risks.
As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, how we approach food safety, defense, security, and fraud continue to evolve. In the face of uncertainty, food processors and manufacturers must adapt. To ensure food safety and to prevent unnecessary food-borne illnesses, rapid and accurate detection of pathogenic agents is essential. The food producers, distributors, handlers, and vendors bear primary responsibility while consumers must remain vigilant and literate. Government agencies must enforce food safety laws to safeguard public and individual health. Medical providers must remain passionate to prevent food-borne illnesses and may consider treating diseases with safe diet therapy under proper medical supervision. The intimate collaboration between all the stakeholders will ultimately ensure food safety in the 21st century.
Safe food supply depends on both sound science and equitable law enforcement. With technological advances, new regulations must be enacted to protect a continuing supply of food products that are safe and wholesome for the health and wellness of people.
Challenges of food safety include four major areas are, they are Microbiological Safety, Chemical Safety, Personal Hygiene & Environmental Hygiene. Food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers, and consumers. Everyone has a role to play from farm to table to ensure the food we consume is safe and healthy. Food safety is everyone's business.
Governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all, agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices, business operators must make sure food is safe, consumers need to learn about safe and healthy food. In most countries, the overarching goal of having Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or similar agency is to take responsibility for the compliance of food safety law to ensure a three-fold aim in protecting public health and safety: inform citizens of nutrition and components of important food products; enforce existing laws and regulations on the food industry to ensure supply of safe food products; and investigate and eliminate potential toxic contaminants and prosecute economic fraud via regular monitoring and surveillance on a chain of food supply. Once the laws are enacted, they must be enforced to ensure compliance by the entire food industry including industries that are directly or indirectly connected with the food source, labeling, packaging, transportation, distribution down to retail sales.
In summary, food safety and nutrition are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition affecting infants, young children, the elderly, and the sick. Because food supply chains cross multiple national and regional borders, a collaboration between governments, producers, suppliers, distributors, and consumers will ultimately ensure food safety in the 21st century.
Governments should make food safety a public health priority, as they play a pivotal role in developing policies and regulatory frameworks, and establishing and implementing effective food safety systems. Let's work together for safe food and good health!
The writer is a sr. nutritionist, Labaid Cardiac Hospital