WHO to Host Forum on Food Safety and Trade

Food that is contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or chemicals causes sickens more than 600 million people each year and kills 420,000 worldwide every year, according to WHO.

The World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the African Union, and the the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations organized the First International Food Safety Conference recently in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with speakers calling for more international cooperation to stop unsafe food from causing illnesses and hampering progress towards sustainable development. WTO will host a follow-up event, the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade, which will focus on the connections between food safety and trade, in Geneva, Switzerland, April 23-24.

WHO says the two meetings are expected to galvanize support and lead to actions on food safety around the world. Food that is contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or chemicals causes sickens more than 600 million people each year and kills 420,000 worldwide every year, according to the agency, which reported that participants in the conference contended food safety must be a paramount goal at every stage of the food chain -- from production to harvest, processing, storage, distribution, preparation, and consumption.

"The partnership between the African Union and the United Nations has been longstanding and strategic," said African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. "This food safety conference is a demonstration of this partnership. Without safe foods, it is not possible to achieve food security."

"There is no food security without food safety," agreed FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "This conference is a great opportunity for the international community to strengthen political commitments and engage in key actions. Safeguarding our food is a shared responsibility. We must all play our part. We must work together to scale up food safety in national and international political agendas."

Approximately 130 countries took part in the two-day conference, including ministers of agriculture, health, and trade, scientific experts, partner agencies, and representatives of consumers, food producers, civil society organizations, and the private sector.

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