International Food

Report shares highlights of World Food Safety Day

More than 300 events were held in 90 countries promoting the third World Food Safety Day, according to a new report.

International organizations, governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations, academics and individuals organized the mainly virtual meetings to mark the day promoted by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The theme of the annual day on June 7 was “Safe food now for a healthy tomorrow.” The COVID-19 pandemic meant, for a second time, that many observances were online. The idea for such a day was raised at a session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 2016 and adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2018.

Overall, there were 4,050 World Food Safety Day tweets, 6,403 retweets, 3,114 likes and 681 replies from 4,194 Twitter accounts in 2021. According to Facebook, 24,000 people posted about the day.

Pre-and post WFSD action
A campaign was launched in February with a live broadcast on YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn, featuring stories from around the world. A guide to World Food Safety Day was published a month later in six languages.

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) hosted three webinars at the end of April. These 30-minute sessions – presented in English, French and Spanish – attracted more than 100 members and recordings received more than 150 views.

The Directors-General and chief scientists of FAO and WHO celebrated the day  with topics covered including the role of science and importance of technology.

Ahead of the UN Food Systems Summit in September, WHO hosted a series of health talks in June about the role of food safety in the broader food system. These included a virtual discussion about WHO’s plans to have food safety as a Sustainable Development Goal indicator.

Markus Lipp, senior food safety officer at FAO, said where food is not safe, hunger will persist.

“Where food is not safe, people — especially children — will never reach their full potential as health and well-being will remain out of reach; where food is not safe, farmers and food producers cannot sell their goods on international markets. After air and water, food is the third most basic and most urgent human need. And to ensure that our food is safe, every single person needs to do their part every day,” he said.

Africa and Americas highlights
Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Frank Yiannas, took part in the National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) 24-hour live event that was co-hosted with Environmental Health Australia (EHA).

Students and staff at Kansas State University’s Food Science Institute prepared a podcast and a video on the importance of food safety.

In Africa, FAO, WHO, the World Food Programme (WFP) and the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Africa (CCAFRICA) hosted a webinar.

Based on WHO estimates published in 2015, 91 million Africans fall sick each year from foodborne illnesses, and 137,000 die. Illnesses are mostly caused by cassava cyanide, aflatoxins, foodborne cholera and E. coli.

In the Near East and North Africa, the Qatari Ministry of Health lit up its building in orange as a visual celebration of World Food Safety Day.

The FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (RLC), the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), International Regional Organization of Agricultural Health (OIRSA) and the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (CCLAC) organized a two-day webinar with 3,800 participants.

Asia and Europe focus
In the Asia Pacific region, FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), WFP, WHO and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) held a meeting that had about 800 participants from 69 countries.

The FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia and WHO Regional Office for Europe hosted a World Food Safety Day webinar with Hans Kluge, WHO Europe regional director, saying the number of people getting sick or dying from unsafe food is “staggering” and “unacceptable.”

Luz Maria De-Regil, unit head, multi-sectoral action in food systems at WHO, said the magnitude of the public health burden from foodborne diseases is comparable to that of malaria or HIV AIDS.

“When food safety is improved, hunger and malnutrition decrease. When food is safe, children get the nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. When foodborne diseases are prevented, children and adults miss fewer days at school and work, improving their present and future earning potential,” she said.

World Food Safety Day aims to create change at global, regional, national and local levels. More than just one day, it sets in motion a year-long campaign to improve food safety and is a way to maintain momentum, according to FAO and WHO. The campaign will mark its fourth year in 2022.

Efforts will be strengthened with the updated FAO and WHO food safety strategies, both planned for next year, to respond to current and emerging issues more effectively and lower the burden of foodborne diseases.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)