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Food Safety is everyone’s business. Sri Lanka joins the world in observing the inaugural World Food Safety Day

(c)WHO/Sonali de Silva

Colombo, Sri Lanka - The first ever United Nations World Food Safety Day was marked in Colombo by the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The national event which took place at the BMICH in Colombo in-line with the global theme “Food Safety, everyone’s business,” was held under the patronage of the Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Dr. Rajitha Senaratne.

Food borne illnesses are usually infectious and toxic in nature and is caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water. Unsafe food containing harmful biological or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to cancers, threatening human health and economies, disproportionally affecting vulnerable and marginalized people, especially women and children the most.

Emphasizing the burden of foodborne diseases, Dr Razia Pendse, the WHO Representative for
Sri Lanka stated, “Globally, an estimated 600 million fall ill and 420,000 lose their lives every year after eating contaminated food. In 2018, the burden of foodborne diseases in the WHO SEARO region was the second highest in all WHO regions with 150 million illnesses, 170,000 deaths.” She further said, “It is necessary to have clear standards, legislation, monitoring criteria and mechanisms to ensure food safety in Sri Lanka.”

Food safety contributes to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development, hence why food safety becomes everyone’s business.

“Everyone has the right to safe, nutritious and sufficient food,” said Dr. Xuebing Sun, the FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives. “Yet food safety is taken for granted. It is often invisible until you get food poisoning. When food is not safe, children cannot learn, adults cannot work. Human development cannot take place,” he stated further. Dr. Sun reiterated that “whether you produce, process, sell or prepare food, then you have a role in keeping it safe. Everybody along the food chain, from farm to plate, is responsible for food safety.”

The inaugural World Food Safety Day is an opportunity to strengthen efforts to ensure access to safe food for all in Sri Lanka. Access to safe food is critical to promoting health and ending hunger, two of the goals in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. WHO and FAO will continue to work closely with other stakeholders and partners to support member states in ensuring food safety along the entire food chain from production, regulation and consumption.