#Article (Archive)

Food safety, a primary health concern

Apr 7, 2015, 11:47 AM

Today is another important day on the world calendar; it’s World Health Day celebrated on 7 April annually.

In recognition of the importance of the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety, the theme of the 2015 World Health Day is: ‘From farm to plate, make food safe’.

Experts said the theme highlights the urgent need for governments, food businesses, and consumers to put measures in place that will improve food safety from the point of production to consumption.

According to the World Health Organisation, unsafe food includes undercooked foods of animal origin, and contaminated fruits and vegetables.

Such foods cause more than 200 diseases including diarrhoea and cancers.About two million people, globally, die of foodborne diseases annually

Not only do unsafe foods pose health threat, they also pose major economic risks.

For example, Germany’s 2011 E.coli outbreak reportedly caused US$1.3 billion in losses for farmers and industries and US$236 million in emergency aid payments to 22 European Union Member States.

In order to prevent an epidemic of foodborne disease, there is need to strengthen the development of robust food safety systems that drive collective government and public action to safeguard against chemical or microbial contamination of food.

The importance of food safety issues on livelihoods and consumer health needs to be high on the political agenda of governments.

It is worth noting that the Gambia government continues to demonstrate the right political actions as it recently established the Food Safety and Quality Authority.

We hope more appropriate trainings will be given to food inspectors so they would be empowered with the right tools to work effectively.

However, though it is the responsibility of governments, as duty bearers, to ensure access to adequate, safe, nutritious food for everyone, they cannot do it all alone.Organisations like FAO and WHO should give more support, both technical and financial, to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne disease outbreaks should they occur.

At individual level as consumers, people should practise safe food hygiene and learn how to take care when cooking specific foods that may be hazardous, like raw chicken, and also read the labels when buying and preparing food.

In order to successfully tackle food safety, it is important to make sure that all food handlers and consumers understand the importance of adopting basic hygienic practices when buying, selling and preparing food.

Food safety is a cross-cutting issue and shared responsibility that requires participation of all so that together we can ensure that food is safe from production to consumption.

“Health is the greatest gift, contentment the greatest wealth, faithfulness the best relationship.”