World Food Safety Day: new date for the fight against hunger

“Food Safety, everyone’s business” is the theme of the first-ever World Food Safety Day, celebrated on 7 June 2019. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018, the date highlights the need for better prevention, detection, and management of foodborne risks.Food safety is key to achieving several UN Sustainable Development Goals and is a shared responsibility between governments, producers, and consumers.

“Unsafe food also hinders many low and middle-income economies which lose around 95 billion dollars in productivity each year. “Keeping food safe is a complex process that starts on the farmer and ends in the consumer. It involves everyone along the food system”, justifies José Graziano da Silva, General-Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

A new yearly agenda

Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health, according to FAO.  Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism, and trade.

With an estimated 600 million cases of foodborne diseases annually – almost 1 in 10 people in the world fall ill after eating contaminated – food safety is an increasing threat to human health.  Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden with 125 000 deaths every year.

The World Health Organization (WHO), in collaboration with FAO, is tasked with facilitating the efforts of Member States to celebrate World Food Security Day this year and in the coming years. “Unsafe food kills about 420,000 people a year. These deaths are completely preventable, “said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “World Food Security Day is a unique opportunity to raise awareness of the dangers of unsafe food with governments, producers, manipulators, and consumers.”

Challenges for Africa

An estimated 91 million people in Africa in a year consume contaminated food that renders them ill, and around 137,000 people die. Food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances cause diseases ranging from acute diarrhea to lifelong conditions, including some cancers.

It is estimated that in 2015, 159 million people still collected drinking water directly from surface water sources, 58% of whom are in sub-Saharan Africa.     

Beyond the US$15 billion in medical expenses that households in low- and middle-income economies spend each year because of unsafe food, a recent World Bank study also found that those economies lose US$95.2 billion in economic productivity.

“Foodborne diseases are completely preventable,” explains  Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Director for Africa. “All players along the food chain have a role in making food safe, beginning with producers and processors and moving to distributors, food safety regulators, retailers and eventually servers and consumers,” she stresses.

Matshidiso Moeti

In the past few years, WHO has been increasing its support to countries in Africa to strengthen the laboratory-based foodborne disease surveillance and build national capacity to prevent, detect and respond to food safety emergencies.

Read also: The search for new paradigms in agriculture

Exchange of experiences between Brazil and Africa

Food Security is the key theme of the Brazil Africa Forum 2019, one of the main events for the strengthening of relations between Brazil and the African continent.

Around 300 representatives from governments, the private sector, academia, and potential investors will exchange experiences, discuss value opportunities and promote knowledge.

The President of the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), Benedict Oramah, the director of the World Food Program’s Centre for Excellence Against Hunger, Daniel Balaban, and the director of global practices and agriculture at the World Bank, Simeon Ehui, are among the names already confirmed as speakers.

Brazil Africa Forum 2019 – Food security: path to economic growth, will be held on November 12th and 13th at the Sheraton WTC in São Paulo, Brazil. For more information: