Food safety information: Issue #2 – 10 Facts about Food safety by WHO

Food safety is a public health priority; millions of people fall ill every year and many die as a result of eating unsafe food. Serious outbreaks of foodborne disease have been documented on every continent in the past decade, and in many countries rates of illnesses are increasing significantly.
Key global food safety concerns include:
• spread of microbiological hazards (including such bacteria asSalmonella or Escherichia coli, e. coli);
• chemical food contaminants;
• assessments of new food technologies (such as genetically modified food); and
• strong food safety systems in most countries to ensure a safe global food-chain.
WHO is working to minimize health risks from farm to table, to prevent outbreaks and to promote 5 keys to food safety.
1)
More than 200 diseases are spread through food
Millions of people fall ill every year and many die as a result of eating unsafe food. Diarrhoeal diseases alone kill an estimated 1.5 million children annually, and most of these illnesses are attributed to contaminated food or water. Proper food preparation can prevent most foodborne diseases.
2)
Foodborne diseases are increasing worldwide
Disease-causing organisms in food are transmitted far and wide by today’s interconnected global food-chains – escalating how often and where foodborne illnesses occur. Rapid urbanization worldwide is adding to risks, as urban dwellers eat more food prepared outside the home that may not be handled or prepared safely – including fresh foods and fish, meat and poultry.
3)
Food safety is a global concern
Globalization of food production and trade increases the likelihood of international incidents involving contaminated food. Imported food products and ingredients are common in most countries. Stronger food safety systems in export countries can reinforce both local and cross-border health security.
4)
Emerging diseases are tied to food production
About 75% of the new infectious diseases affecting humans over the past 10 years were caused by bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that started in animals and animal products. Many of these diseases in people are related to the handling of infected domestic and wild animals during food production – in food markets and at slaughter houses.
5)
Minimize the risk of avian influenza
The vast majority of H5N1 avian influenza cases in people follow direct contact with infected live or dead birds. There is no evidence that the disease is spread to people by eating properly cooked poultry. To avoid risk of foodborne illnesses in poultry:
• separate raw meat from other foods
• keep clean and wash your hands
• cook thoroughly (until meat is 70 °C in all parts, with no pink areas).
6)
Preventing disease starts at the farm
Preventing animal infections at the farm level can reduce foodborne illnesses. For example, reducing the amount of Salmonella in farm chickens by 50% (through better farm management) results in 50% less people getting sick from the bacteria. Salmonella-free chicken herds are becoming more common in some countries.
7)
Chemical hazards can contaminate food
Acrylamide, which may cause cancer, is formed from natural ingredients during the cooking of some foods at high temperatures (generally above 120 °C), including fried potato products, baked cereal products and coffee. The food industry is working to find methods to lower exposure to such chemicals. Avoid overcooking when frying, grilling or baking food.
8)
Everyone plays a role in food safety
Food contamination can occur at any stage from farm to table. Everyone on the food delivery chain must employ measures to keep food safe – farmer, processor, vendor and consumer. Safety at home is just as vital to prevent disease outbreaks. Women are primary targets for food safety education as they are responsible for household meals in many societies.
9)
School is a place for food safety
Educating children on safe food handling behaviors is key to preventing foodborne diseases today and in the future. Integrating food safety lessons into school curricula gives children essential life skills that can help to keep them and their families healthy.
10)
Five keys to food safety
WHO and Member States are promoting the benefits of food safety, healthy diets and physical activity. The five keys to safer food are:
1. keep clean
2. separate raw and cooked
3. cook all foods thoroughly
4. keep food at safe temperatures
5. use safe water and raw materials.

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