GLOBAL – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have kicked off the joint World Food Safety Day campaign for 2024, unveiling the theme “Food safety — prepare for the unexpected.”

This year’s campaign, leading up to World Food Safety Day on June 7, aims to shed light on the significance of anticipating and addressing unforeseen food safety challenges.

The campaign delves into various unexpected food safety incidents that can transpire despite diligent efforts to maintain food safety.

From everyday occurrences like power outages impacting food storage at home to international food safety alerts due to contamination within the food supply chain, the focus is on understanding and preparing for a range of potential scenarios.

The importance of proactive measures in mitigating risks associated with unexpected events is emphasized. For instance, rapid data collection and information exchange across borders and sectors play a crucial role in identifying the origins of food contamination swiftly, thus preventing widespread foodborne illnesses.

Call to action for better preparedness

The World Food Safety Day campaign encourages participants to evaluate how they can enhance preparedness for unexpected food safety challenges. Whether it’s individuals at home or professionals in the food industry, everyone is urged to bolster their knowledge and practices to avert food safety crises effectively.

In a video message, FAO’s Corinna Hawkes and WHO’s Francesco Branca accentuated the significance of anticipating various events, including natural disasters or infrastructure disruptions, to minimize food safety risks.

They highlighted the pivotal role of consumers’ food safety awareness and emphasized that readiness across all sectors is crucial in tackling unexpected food safety issues.

“Anticipating the kinds of events that might occur, whether it be a natural disaster like flooding, or a volcano eruption or a power outage can ensure the risk to food safety is minimized. And in the home, consumers’ food safety knowledge can avert problems in unexpected situations. This World Food Safety Day, we will raise awareness about what you — no matter your role — can do to be ready for the unexpected,” they said.

WHO estimates that around 420,000 people around the world die every year after consuming contaminated food, while children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125, 000 deaths every year.

To this end, World Food Safety Day was commissioned in 2018 to raise awareness about the importance of preventing, detecting, and managing risks through food safety practices, promoting debates, solutions, and ways to improve human health, trade, agriculture, and sustainable development.

Last year, the Day was celebrated under the theme, “Food standards save lives”.

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