World Health Day 2015: Food Safety


CBHEUyuW8AEe2Lk.jpg largeToday is World Health Day – and the focus is on food.

This year’s ‘Food Safety’ theme will highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with food preparation and handling.

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.

At least 4.1 million people will have a painful bout of gastro this year in Australia, due to poor food handling or purchasing food which hasn’t been properly cooked or handled.

At least 200 diseases can be caused by food laden with bacteria, parasites, viruses or chemicals.

Queensland Health Protection Unit executive director Sophie Dwyer says,

“On average, there are more than 230,000 cases of campylobacter and 55,000 cases of salmonella in Australia each year.

“We’ve certainly seen a spike in numbers for these two diseases compared to the same time last year.

“This is a clear indication that people need to pay much more attention to the way they handle and prepare food.”

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.

“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.”

World Health Day 2015 banner

Facts about Food Safety:

  • Over 200 diseases are caused by unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemical substances.
  • It is estimated that 2 million deaths occur every year from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water.
  • Infections caused by contaminated food have a much higher impact on populations with poor or fragile health status and can easily lead to serious illness and death. For infants, pregnant women, the sick and the elderly, the consequences of foodborne disease are usually more severe and may be fatal.
  • Food contamination has far reaching effects beyond direct public health consequences – it undermines food exports, tourism, livelihoods of food handlers and economic development, both in developed and developing countries.
  • Food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, industry, producers, academia, and consumers. Everyone has a role to play. Achieving food safety is a multi-sectoral effort.

5 Keys on Keeping Your Food Safe:

The World Health Organization is using today to help and encourage other countries to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne disease outbreaks – in line with the Codex Alimentarius, a collection of international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice covering all the main food groups.

World Health Day is an opportunity to alert governments, manufacturers, retailers, food suppliers and growers, and the public the importance of food safety and to ensure consumers that the food on their plate is safe.

How to Keep Your Food Safe:

There are many resources available on the WHO website, including fact-sheets and a toolkit to help you to better understand how foodborne illnesses arise and how you can protect yourself and loved ones from food poisoning.

Visit for more.



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