In case you didn’t know, today, the 7th of April, is World Health Day 2015. As can be read on the World Health Organization website, WHO hopes to highlight
the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety under the slogan “From farm to plate, make food safe.”
“Food production has been industrialized and its trade and distribution have been globalized,” says WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan. “These changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.”
Dr Chan adds: “A local food safety problem can rapidly become an international emergency. Investigation of an outbreak of foodborne disease is vastly more complicated when a single plate or package of food contains ingredients from multiple countries.”
My husband experienced first hand the consequences of poor food handling practices, experiencing severe gastrointestinal upset which started showing itself half way through a 16-hour cross-Pacific flight. The extremely unpleasant side-effects lasted for several days, and he will not be eating airport lounge fast-food any time soon!
I myself had a number of blood tests earlier this year after persistent ill health – thankfully I returned negative results, unlike other Australians who similarly had eaten contaminated berries imported from overseas. This latest scare has prompted a call for clearer packaging, and improved safety standards in Australia and overseas.
Our immediate experiences cannot compare with those of individuals who have lost their lives due to foodborne illnesses, however. The WHO has released its preliminary findings regarding the global burden of foodborne diseases, with additional findings expected later this year. I look forward to seeing further results in this important injury prevention domain.