World Health Day 2015 Focused on Food Safety
New threats to food safety are constantly emerging, according to the World Health Organization.
The World Health Organization is marking World Health Day 2015 on April 7 and has focused it on food safety. Unsafe food is linked to the deaths of an estimated 2 million people annually, many of whom are children, according to the UN agency, which notes that food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances is responsible for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers.
To make matters worse, WHO reports new threats to food safety are constantly emerging. "Changes in food production, distribution and consumption; changes to the environment; new and emerging pathogens; antimicrobial resistance -- all pose challenges to national food safety systems. Increases in travel and trade enhance the likelihood that contamination can spread internationally," according to its announcement.
The world's food supply is becoming increasingly globalized, so there is a growing need to strengthen food safety systems in and between all countries. Together with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, WHO alerts countries to food safety emergencies through an international information network. According to WHO, these are the five keys to safer food for vendors and consumers handling and preparing food:
- Key 1: Keep clean
- Key 2: Separate raw and cooked food
- Key 3: Cook food thoroughly
- Key 4: Keep food at safe temperatures
- Key 5: Use safe water and raw materials
A World Health Day 2015 campaign toolkit is available here.
Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg, U.S. commissioner of food and drugs since May 18, 2009, announced Feb. 5 that she is stepping down from that post. FDA has key responsibilities for ensuring the safety of the U.S. food supply; Hamburg released a statement announcing her plan that said in part, "In the foods area, we have taken critical actions that will improve the safety of the food Americans consume for years to come. These include science-based standards developed to create a food safety system focused on preventing foodborne illness before it occurs, rather than responding after the fact. We have taken several significant steps to help Americans make more informed and healthful food choices. These include working to reduce trans fats in processed foods; more clearly defining when baked goods, pastas and other foods can be labeled 'gluten free'; updating the iconic Nutrition Facts label; and, most recently, finalizing the rules to make calorie information available on chain restaurant menus and vending machines."
Another federal agency involved in food safety, USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, posted a tweet Feb. 11 about a new Purdue University study that found standard cleaning procedures in retail delis may not eradicate Listeria monocytogenes bacteria, which can cause a potentially fatal disease in people with vulnerable immune systems. The study was headed by Haley Oliver, Purdue assistant professor of food science, and found that 6.8 percent of samples taken in 15 delis before daily operation had begun tested positive for L. monocytogenes. In a second sampling phase, 9.5 percent of samples taken in 30 delis during operation over six months tested positive for the bacteria. "This is a public health challenge," Oliver said. "These data suggest that failure to thoroughly execute cleaning and sanitation protocols is allowing L. monocytogenes to persist in some stores. We can't in good conscience tell people with weak immune systems that it is safe to eat at the deli."