Author : Shoba Suri

Expert Speak Health Express
Published on Jun 07, 2022 Updated 13 Days ago
This year’s World Food Safety Day focuses on the role of safe nutritious food for better health and well-being; communities and the government should take steps to ensure the same.
World Food Safety Day: Aiming for safer food and better health Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 aims to ‘end hunger and ensure access by all people especially the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round’. Food Safety is a public health priority and integral to achieving food security. According to World Health Organization (WHO), about half a million die each year from the consumption of contaminated food. Children under five are worst affected by foodborne illness, with 125,000 deaths each year. Source: https://foodsafety.osu.edu/ Foodborne illnesses not only hamper public health but also impact the economy due to loss of productivity. A 2021 report on the economic burden of foodborne illness reflects an increased burden due to inflation and income growth.  According to the World Bank, the loss of productivity due to foodborne illnesses costs about US$ 95.2 billion per year for low-and middle-income countries and the cost of treating is US$15 billion. A systemic review concludes that food safety issues in the food market have a significant impact on public health. Food safety is crucial to evade the spread of foodborne illnesses, and awareness needs to be created for practicing food safety. Even though COVID-19 is not a foodborne disease, it is a threat to human health, food security, and food businesses. Food businesses need to adopt good hygienic practices and food safety management systems based on the Codex Alimentarius guidelines, to safeguard the health of consumers. ‘Safe Food and Better Health’ is an appropriate theme for this year’s World Food Safety Day as it focuses on the role of safe nutritious food for better health and well-being. The One Health approach offers a framework for the intersection of SDGs for a sustainable food system, food safety, and food security. Food safety is integral for achieving many of the 17 SDGs that have a significant influence on a few. The table below indicates the interlinkage between food safety and SDGs: Adapted from Food Safety and Sustainable Development Goals A report by United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) suggests food safety as a connector between health, agriculture, and trade policy for sustained economic and human development. The World Health Assembly resolution 73.5 recognises the importance of food safety for the prevention of foodborne illnesses and strengthening global efforts to raise awareness of it. A recent report by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) identifies drivers and trends that impact food safety (see fig below). Source: Major drivers and trends relevant to agri-food systems and food safety Climate change impacts the food system at all levels-production, processing, storage, and distribution, thus, ensuring food safety across the supply chain is of utmost priority. A review of studies from low-middle-income countries shows the influence of food safety concerns on consumers’ choice of food and eating behaviour. A consumer survey in the United States (US) across 18 years and above subjects revealed consumer concerns about the likeliness of raw meat and restaurant food causing foodborne illness as compared to fruits and vegetables and home-cooked food. A 2020 web-based survey shows 56 percent of the consumers prefer to receive information on food safety via food labels, followed by 43 percent through websites, etc. A report on coping with the demands for safe food during the pandemic, identifies ‘food fraud’ as the biggest risk to food safety, followed by ‘allergens’ and the ‘lack of investment’. According to the 2021 Global Food Security Index, countries with no food safety programmes have higher levels of hunger and stunting in children. India ranks 71 out of 113 countries on the global ranking Food Security Index and 74th on ‘Quality and Safety’ with a score of 59.1 out of 100. Canada tops with first rank (score 94.5) on Quality and Safety amongst the 113 countries.  WHO’s Global Strategy for Food Safety 2022–2030, urges member states to adopt, modify, and strengthen their national food safety systems with an inclusive approach by aligning food safety and quality, environment, agriculture, and health. Case studies across continents have shown how community-led initiatives can improve food safety standards with a focus on clean water, sanitation, storage, etc, in protecting the health of the population. India’s Food Safety and Standards Act 2006, defines food safety as an "assurance that food is acceptable for human consumption according to its intended use’ and ensures safe, wholesome, and hygienic food. Governments need to act now to ensure food safety from ‘Farm to Fork’.
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