It’s World Food Safety Day today (7 June), a good time to remind ourselves to keep food safe and eat good food for a healthy future.

Safe food is essential to human health and well-being. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 600 million people fall ill and 420,000 die every year from eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. However, these numbers represent only “the tip of the iceberg” as comprehensive surveillance data for foodborne illnesses is not available everywhere.

“Food safety is everyone’s business,” say the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

When food is not safe, humans cannot benefit from its nutritional value and cannot grow and develop. Investing in food safety today will reap future rewards. Safe food production improves economic opportunities by enabling market access and productivity.

At the same time, good practices along the supply chain improve sustainability, minimising environmental damage and the amount of agricultural product that has to be discarded. Unsafe or contaminated food leads to trade rejections, economic losses and food loss and waste.

Food safety requires a holistic approach which recognises the connection between the health of people, animals, plants and the environment.

Animal and plant health are critical to agriculture producing enough food to feed the world. Keeping animals healthy will also minimise the risk of zoonotic pathogens (disease-causing organisms that can be transmitted between animals and humans), antimicrobial resistant organisms and more.

“The food we eat is kept safe through the dedicated efforts of everyone who grows, processes, transports, stores, sells, prepares and serves it. Safe food contributes to a healthy life, a healthy economy, a healthy planet and a healthy future.

“Food safety is your business, too. Using food safety practices at home and in our daily lives will help avoid foodborne illness,” say the WHO and the FAO.

FOOD SAFETY in the Time of COVID-19

While COVID-19 has not been transmitted by food, the pandemic has sharpened the focus on food safety-related issues, such as hygiene, antimicrobial resistance, zoonotic diseases, climate change, food fraud and the potential benefits of digitalizing food systems.

It has also identified weaknesses or vulnerabilities in food production and control systems. For the immediate future, minimising disruptions in the food supply chains remains one of the highest priorities of all governments, as consumers must have reliable access to food.

Concerted efforts on food safety will help countries mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic and boost their resilience for the long term by facilitating and accelerating food and agricultural trade, helping to prevent the next zoonotic pandemic and transforming food systems.

5 Things We Can Do

1. ENSURE it’s safe. Governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all.
2. GROW it safe. Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices.
3. KEEP it safe. Business operators must make sure food is safe.
4. KNOW what’s safe. Consumers need to learn about safe and healthy food.
5. TEAM UP for food safety. Let’s work together for safe food and good health!

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