Feeding the world safely

The importance of food safety as an essential element of food and nutrition security was discussed as part of the Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), held in Rome last week.

Participants at a side event “Food safety: a right or a privilege”, organized by WHO and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), reflected on how food safety contributes to food availability, food access, food utilization and food stability – the four components of food security. There was broad consensus that intersectoral collaboration, particularly between the agriculture and health sectors, was vital.

Dr Knut-Inge Klepp, Director of the Public Health Division, Norwegian Directorate of Health, emphasized that an integrated food chain approach and intersectoral collaboration at both the international and the national levels are critical to ensuring food safety. Antimicrobial resistance, for example, is both a public health problem and a food safety challenge that must be tackled holistically, through policies that emphasize the prudent use of antibiotics, and integrated surveillance systems.

The need for intersectoral collaboration to address food safety was also highlighted in an address by Dr Romani Marabelli, Secretary General of the Ministry of Health of Italy and honorary President of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE). Dr Marabelli identified veterinary public health as essential in preventing and controlling foodborne diseases and zoonoses.

Noting that food safety is both a local and an international issue, participants agreed that sectors must work together in order to “feed the world safely”.

Food safety theme of World Health Day 2015

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, announced at ICN2 that food safety would be the focus of World Health Day 2015.

“WHO will dedicate its 2015 World Health Day to food safety to catalyse collective Government and public action to put measures in place that will improve safety of food from farms, factories, street vendors and kitchens. Also in 2015, WHO will, for the first time, publish estimates of the global burden of foodborne disease, finally showing the scale of the problem,” said Dr Chan.