It's hard to grapple with the fact that the food you find at grocery stores is not always safe for consumption. Food scandals happen all over the world. And much more frequently and with much larger consequences than most of us realize. In 2008, contaminated infant formula affected 300,000 babies and young children. Six of them died. In 2011, many farmers lost acres of fruit harvest as the watermelons were exploding seemingly because they were sprayed with a growth-enhancing chemical. We have seen horsemeat scandals, toxic olive oil, contaminated strawberries and sprouts, cantaloupe with listeria and pink slime full of random chemicals, and the list goes on. WHO estimates that unsafe food is linked to a staggering 2 million deaths every year! Many of them children. Over 200 diseases are caused by unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemical substances.
How can we trust that the food we eat is not a recipe for disaster and death?
The World Health Organization (WHO) has put the spotlight on food safety this year with a campaign launched on World Health Day last week. As a global organization, based in Geneva, the WHO works for global prevention, detection and response to the public health threats posed by unsafe food. It works with other UN agencies and partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organization to ensure appropriate measures cover processes across the entire food chain of production and consumption. The Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) works on agricultural standards that are used around the world as tons of fruit and produce are shipped from one place to another. No easy task but an important one.
Legislative frameworks and monitoring are essential building blocks for safer food. But we all have a responsibility. We, as consumers, also need to do our part. WHO has defined 'Five keys to safer food' which we should remember and act on:
• Key 1: Keep clean
• Key 2: Separate raw and cooked food
• Key 3: Cook food thoroughly
• Key 4: Keep food at safe temperatures
• Key 5: Use safe water and raw materials
Simple and easy to do on a daily basis.
Let's do our part to keep our food safe.