The World Health Organisation (WHO) is dedicating its annual World Health Day on 7 April to the issue of food safety under the slogan “From farm to plate, make food safe.” WHO has also released the first findings from an on-going analysis of the global burden of foodborne disease.
World Health Day focuses on the global threats presented by unsafe foods and the need for coordinated, cross-border action across the food supply chain. “Food production has been industrialised and its trade and distribution have been globalised,” said WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan. “These changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.”
The initial results of research by WHO’s Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG), relating to data from 2010, show that there were an estimated 582 million cases of 22 different foodborne diseases with 351,000 associated deaths over the year. Most of those deaths were caused by Salmonella Typhi (52 000 deaths), enteropathogenic E. coli (37 000) and norovirus (35 000). The highest burden of foodborne disease was recorded in Africa, followed by South-East Asia, while over 40% people suffering from enteric diseases caused by contaminated food were children aged less than 5 years. The full results of the FERG study are expected in October.
According to WHO, the new research findings underline the need for better preventive action to combat foodborne disease outbreaks, both in the form of robust food safety systems operating at a global and national level, and action by individual consumers to practice good food hygiene in the home.
More information about World Health Day can be found here.