April 7th marks the annual World Health Day. This year, awareness is being heightened so everything is being done to ensure that the food we eat is as safe as possible.
The thrust of the campaign is to make food hygiene a priority all along the chain, from farm to plate.
How safe is our food?
The World Health Organisation (the group behind World Health Day) have released new data that illnesses caused by unsafe food are on the increase. With the globalisation of food production, trade and distribution, this allows more windows for food to become contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals. Unsafe food can 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 bio toxins.
What’s to be done?
As well as striking at people’s physical wellbeing, there are economic downsides to unsafe food. An outbreak such as E. coli or salmonella can hit the country where it was deemed to have started or spread. The WHO insist that there is a major need for co-ordinated, cross-border action across the entire food supply chain and is working to ensure access to adequate, safe, nutritious food for everyone. The organization supports countries to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne disease outbreaks.
What are the worrying stats?
Full updated figures will be published later this year, but in 2010, there were an estimated 582 million cases of 22 different foodborne diseases and 351,000 associated deaths. Salmonella Typhi was responsible for most deaths (52,000), with E. coli (37,000) and norovirus (35,000) next. Over 40% of people suffering from diseases caused by contaminated food were children aged under 5 years old.
What can we do?
As consumers, we can play our part in promoting food safety, such as keeping ourselves and the cooking areas clean, separating raw and cooked foods, making sure meals are cooked thoroughly, keeping food at safe temperatures, and using clean water and utensils. It should be remembered that a local food safety problem can rapidly turn into a national or even international emergency.
What’s the slogan?
Every campaign needs a memorable slogan to stick in people’s minds and keep awareness high. This year’s World Health Day line is: ‘From farm to plate, make food safe.’
What steps do you take to ensure food in your kitchen is safe?