Every year, the World Health Organization selects a priority area of global public health concern as the theme for World Health Day, which falls on 7 April, the birthday of the Organization. The theme for World Health Day 2015 will be Food Safety, a theme of high relevance to all people on the planet, and multiple stakeholders, including government, civil society, the private sector, and intergovernmental agencies.
Safe food underpins but is distinct from food security. Food safety is an area of public health action to protect consumers from the risks of food poisoning and foodborne diseases, acute or chronic. Unsafe food can lead to a range of health problems: diarrhoeal disease, viral disease (the first Ebola cases were linked to contaminated bush meat); reproductive and developmental problems, cancers. Food safety is thus a prerequisite for food security.
New threats to food safety are constantly emerging. Changes in food production, distribution and consumption (i.e. intensive agriculture, globalisation of food trade, mass catering and street food); changes to the environment; new and emerging bacteria and toxins; antimicrobial resistance—all increase the risk that food becomes contaminated. Increases in travel and trade enhance the likelihood that contamination can spread.
The World Health Organization helps and encourages countries to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne disease outbreaks—in line with the Codex Alimentarius, a collection of international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice covering all the main foods. Recognising that food safety is a cross-cutting issue and shared Public health context responsibility, the World Health Organization welcomes the participation of non-public health sectors (i.e. agriculture, trade and commerce, environment, standardization) in this campaign and seeks support of major international and regional agencies and organizations active in the fields of food, emergency aid, and education.
World Health Day 2015 is an opportunity to alert governments, manufacturers, retailers and the public to the importance of food safety—and the part each can play in ensuring that the food on peoples’ plates is safe to eat.