World Health Day takes on 7th April, and the topic of this year is about food safety. Unsafe food is linked to the deaths of an estimated 2 million people annually, including many children. Food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances is responsible for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.

As our food supply becomes increasingly globalized, the need to strengthen food safety systems in and between all countries is becoming more and more evident. That is why the World Health Organization is promoting efforts to improve food safety, from farm to plate.

Key facts about unsafe food

  • Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health.
  • Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.
  • Foodborne and waterborne diarrhoeal diseases kill an estimated 2 million people annually, including many children.
  • Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick.
  • Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade.
  • Food supply chains now cross multiple national borders. Good collaboration between governments, producers and consumers helps ensure food safety.

Five Keys to safer food

Food safety is a shared responsibility. It is important to work all along the food production chain – from farmers and manufacturers to vendors and consumers. WHO’s Five keys to safer food offer practical guidance to vendors and consumers for handling and preparing food:

  • Keep clean
  • Separate raw and cooked food
  • Cook food thoroughly
  • Keep food at safe temperatures
  • Use safe water and raw materials.

food safer

World Health Day 2015 is an opportunity to alert people working in different government sectors, farmers, manufacturers, retailers, health practitioners – as well as consumers – about the importance of food safety, and the part each can play in ensuring that everyone can feel confident that the food on their plate is safe to eat.