Unsafe food kills 420,000 people annually

Photo: WAM

Unsafe food kills an estimated 420,000 people every year, the head of the World Health Organisation, WHO, said on Thursday.

Children under five are the most at risk, carrying 40 percent of the foodborne disease burden, amounting to 125,000 deaths every year.

"These deaths are entirely preventable," said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Unsafe food – contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances – also causes nearly one-in-ten people, or some 600 million, to fall ill globally each year.

"World Food Safety Day is a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of unsafe food with governments, producers, handlers and consumers", he stated.

Just as food safety contributes to food security - human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development - unsafe food hinders these resources by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism, trade and development.

In many low- and middle-income economies, unsafe food that has caused workers to suffer illness, disability and premature death, costs US$95 billion in productivity annually, WHO estimates.

Improving hygiene practices in the food and agricultural sectors helps to reduce the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance along the food chain, and in the environment, the UN explained.

The theme of this year’s first commemoration of the UN World Food Safety Day on 7th June is that "food safety is everyone’s business".

The UN has designated WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, to lead efforts in promoting worldwide food safety.

Together they are joining forces to assist countries in preventing, managing and responding to risks along the food supply chain by working with food producers, vendors, regulatory authorities and civil society – regardless of whether food is domestically produced or imported.

"Whether you are a farmer, farm supplier, food processor, transporter, marketer or consumer, food safety is your business," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. "There is no food security without food safety".

The UN agencies underline that safe, nutritious and sufficient food is a key to promoting health and ending hunger, two of the main aims of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs.

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