World Health Day 2015: from farm to plate, make food safe

Published: Tuesday 7th April 2015 by Tom Drinkall

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Through the annual World Health Day on April 7, WHO (the World Health Organisation) aim to spark a global health debate on the global burden of disease and the factors which cause it.

Each year focuses on a different topic relating to health, and this year’s is ‘Improving food safety, from farm to plate’.

According to WHO, new data on the harm caused by foodborne illnesses underscore the global threats posed by unsafe foods, and the need for coordinated, cross-border action across the entire food supply chain.

“Food production has been industrialized and its trade and distribution have been globalized,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan.

“These changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.”

Dr Chan adds: “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 food can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, and cause more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Examples of unsafe food include undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.

The latest figures issued by FERG (Foodbourne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group) show the devastating affect unsafe food has globally. The research from 2010, showed that;

  • there were an estimated 582 million cases of 22 different foodborne 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 foodborne disease, followed by South-East Asia;
  • over 40% people suffering from enteric diseases caused by contaminated food were children aged under 5 years


For more information on World Health Day, click here to visit their website. 

Published: Tuesday 7th April 2015 by Tom Drinkall

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