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Nutrition and food safety remain top priorities for FAO and WHO

Graziano da Silva and Chan met to prepare for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) in November

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva meeting WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, FAO headquarters.

14 February 2014, Rome – FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) will continue to work closely on nutrition, food safety and antimicrobial resistance issues, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and WHO Director Margaret Chan said today. Graziano Da Silva thanked Chan for WHO’s strengthened cooperation and support for FAO’s work as the two leaders met with other senior officials at FAO Headquarters.

Graziano da Silva and Chan discussed joint efforts in preparing for the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), an inclusive inter-governmental meeting on nutrition organized by FAO and WHO in cooperation with the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis (HLTF), IFAD, IFPRI, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, WFP and the WTO, which will be held at FAO Headquarters in Rome, 19-21 November 2014. At the meeting Graziano da Silva and Chan agreed that the upcoming ICN2 should also contribute to giving greater visibility to food quality and safety issues as an important element of nutrition security.

This high-level ministerial conference will propose a flexible policy framework to address today’s major nutrition challenges and identify priorities for enhanced international cooperation on nutrition.  As requested by the FAO Council, civil society and private sector organizations will be involved in the preparatory process through web-based consultations.

“FAO and WHO have been working together on many important areas: the Codex Alimentarius, food safety, antimicrobial resistance and zoonosis. In addition, this strategic meeting touches upon the importance of working together specifically to support the member states of both Organizations towards the preparation of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2)”, Chan said.

Leadership role in food safety

Graziano da Silva and Chan reiterated the commitment of FAO and WHO to continued collaboration in their unique responsibility of setting international food safety standards, through the jointly established Codex Alimentarius Commission, which will play an important role for future trade and health global issues. FAO also reaffirmed the critical importance that it places on its Food Safety Programme as a major contribution to the overarching goals of the Organization: food and nutrition security and agriculture-driven social and economic development.

FAO and WHO have collaborated since 1963 on the Codex Alimentarius, which develops harmonised international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to protect consumer health and ensure fair practices in the food trade.

FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department is leading the development of a new strategy for food safety, in which strategic partnerships, for example with WHO and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), are essential for food safety governance. 

The organizations agreed on the importance of taking a leadership role to ensure consistency in food safety, particularly in terms of strengthening regulatory systems and improving the overall impact of capacity development efforts.

The two leaders also discussed antimicrobial resistance, or when microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses develop an ability to withstand attack by medicines such as antibiotics, antifungals and antivirals.

Antimicrobial resistance is the main identified threat to human health at present and listed by the World Economic Forum as one of the 30 global risks of highest concern in 2014.

Both organizations agreed on the need to strengthen international cooperation through joint FAO-WHO-World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE)  common approaches to promote the responsible and prudent use of antimicrobial agents in humans and animals, and to minimize the development and spread of antimicrobial resistance as a necessary tool to eradicate hunger by combatting animal diseases.