Food safety is everyone’s business


Today, United Nations World Food Safety Day calls attention to everyone’s right to safe, nutritious and sufficient food

©FAO/Riccardo de Luca

Despite remarkable developments in the field of food safety in recent decades, the global burden of foodborne diseases is still unacceptably high. An estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food every year, and 420 000 of them die. Safe food is critical not only to better health and food security but also for livelihoods, economic development, trade and the international reputation of every country.

Today, the first-ever celebration of United Nations World Food Safety Day aims to strengthen efforts to ensure that the food we eat is safe.

Two UN agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), lead efforts in promoting food safety around the world.

Since contamination can occur at any stage of the farm-to-fork continuum, ensuring food safety is the shared responsibility of everyone who grows, processes, transports, stores, sells and consumes food.

“Consumers have the power to drive change,” said Mary Kenny, FAO food safety and quality expert. “Given the complexity of food safety, consumers need access to timely, clear and reliable information about the nutritional and food-borne risks associated with their food choices.”

Food safety is your business! Photo: ©FAO/Karen Minasyan (L); ©FAO/Gent Shkullaku (R)

Ensure it’s safe

National governments and food safety authorities play a critical role in guaranteeing that we all can eat safe and nutritious food. Through appropriate food safety regulations, they can help food operators manage food safety risks along the entire food chain.

“Many countries in Europe and Central Asia invest substantial efforts to improve their food safety control systems through multi-sectoral collaboration and the adoption of risk-based approaches,” Kenny added. “International food safety standards, such as those of the FAO-WHO Codex Alimentarius, are also recognized as crucial tools that protect public health and facilitate international trade and economic development.”

It is also the governments’ and related authorities’ responsibility to inform and guide food producers and consumers on food safety hazards and how to prevent them. FAO supports countries in the region in strengthening official control systems to assure safe food, and it promotes technical exchange and cooperation in the region.

Support and engagement with the private sector are essential, as good processing, storage and preservation help retain nutritional value, minimize food waste, ensure food safety and reduce post-harvest losses.

A worker checks the density of milk in a copper vat in a cheese manufacturing facility in Italy. Photo: ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico

FAO and WHO believe that everyone has the right to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, and that safe food is critical to promoting health and ending hunger, two of the primary aims of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The two UN agencies have created a new guide to show how everyone can get involved. The guide includes five steps to make a sustained difference in food safety:

Ensure it’s safe. Governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all.

Grow it safe.  Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices.

Keep it safe. Business operators must make sure food is safe.

Check it’s safe. Consumers need access to timely, clear and reliable information about the nutritional and disease risks associated with their food choices.

Team up for safety. Governments, regional economic bodies, UN organizations, development agencies, trade organizations, consumer and producer groups, academic and research institutions and private sector entities must work together on food safety issues.

Starting in 2019, every 7 June will be a time to celebrate the benefits of safe food. World Food Safety Day was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018.


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2. Zero hunger, 3. Good health and well-being