Food Safety on World Health Day

By Kathy Bolano, Communications Intern

The World Health Organization was established on April 7, 1948 and commemorates it’s anniversary with World Health Day. Each year they take on a different theme in regards to public health. This year, the theme is food safety, with the slogan, “From farm to plate, make food safe.”

Food safety is an ever-growing problem, especially with the globalization of the food trade. With all these added stops, processes and being handled by different people, the food industry allows for new and more opportunities for contamination by potentially dangerous bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances. WHO Director General Dr. Margaret Chan stated,  “A local food safety problem can rapidly become an international emergency. Investigation of an outbreak of foodborne disease is vastly more complicated when a single plate or package of food contains ingredients from multiple countries.”

Unsafe or contaminated food and drinking water has been linked to an estimated 2 million deaths per year, and affects infants, young children, elderly and the ill. It creates a cycle of malnutrition and disease, and can cause upwards of 200 diseases that range anywhere from diarrhea to cancer. According to the WHO webpage:

  • there were an estimated 582 million cases of 22 different food borne enteric diseases and 351,000 associated deaths;
  • the enteric disease agents responsible for most deaths were Salmonella Typhi (52,000 deaths), enteropathogenic E. coli (37,000) and norovirus (35,000);
  • the African region recorded the highest disease burden for enteric food borne disease, followed by South-East Asia;
  • over 40% people suffering from enteric diseases caused by contaminated food were children aged under 5 years.

In order to combat these statistics and outbreaks, the World Health Organization is promoting the “Five Keys to Safer Food” which include “(1) keep clean; (2) separate raw and cooked; (3) cook thoroughly; (4) keep food at safe temperatures; and (5) use safe water and raw materials.” If everyone can follow these five steps, then illness and death from contaminated and unsafe food should drop significantly.

The Niagara Foundation would like to echo the sentiments of the World Health Organization and urge everyone to be mindful of food and water safety.

[Image via Flickr]


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