A panel discusses WHO’s food safety strategy

Officials from Europe and Africa shared their thoughts on a recently adopted international food safety plan that set targets to reduce foodborne illness.

At a health conference on 8 June, Sandra Gallina, Directorate-General for Health and Food Safety at the European Commission, and Amare Ayalew, from the African Union Commission, spoke about the Global Strategy for World Health Organization Food Safety.

World Food Security Day 2022 came 10 days after the adoption of the updated strategy for 2022-2030.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, said food should be a source of sustenance and pleasure, but far too often it becomes a source of illness and death.

“It’s also a common cause of absenteeism from school and work that prevents people from reaching their full potential. Food security has not received the political attention it deserves. WHO and our partners are working to address this issue through policy advocacy and technical support to countries to strengthen their national food safety systems,” he said.

“At this year’s World Health Assembly, countries endorsed the updated WHO Global Food Safety Strategy, committing for the first time to concrete targets to reduce foodborne diarrhea, strengthen surveillance and improve coordination. Countries also committed to implement the strategy into existing food safety policies and programs and to fund them.

EU emphasizes safety and sustainability
Francesco Branca, director of the department of nutrition and food safety at WHO, said: “The last strategy was published about 20 years ago, so you can imagine the magnitude of the changes that have taken place in food systems. since then. This led us to revise the document, which contains five priorities. Going forward, the work of the Technical Advisory Group will enter a new phase focused on mobilizing advocacy resources, beginning the implementation of actions that will strengthen food security systems and have an impact on the reduction of diseases. food origin.

Gallina said the food we eat is as important as the air we breathe.

“We are talking about something that is of monumental importance to economies. In Europe, we are going through the digital and green transition. We try to move not only towards safe food, but also towards sustainable food systems. We need to have a strong One Health approach, we need global level action, of course regional, national and local level efforts, but we will only be successful if we go global,” she said.

The WHO strategy has learned some lessons from the past, Gallina said.

“There is no doubt that our food systems will evolve over the next decade, so we need to promote innovative approaches and make the best use of the tools we have. Codex’s input is crucial, but it requires continued support from WHO and FAO to ensure that these standards are based on sound science, it’s kind of appealing.

“According to the EU experience, Member States have the capacity to ensure a high level of food safety, which is fundamental for our internal market and the free movement of products in Europe. I wish we had the same in the world. The strategy recognizes the importance of food safety domestically and for international trade. I am happy to see the establishment of food security indicators. It’s a first step, towards international indicators, you have to start somewhere and it’s a huge void that needs to be filled very quickly. This is how we will measure the effectiveness of our various policies. These indicators will still need to be developed.

Good timing and approach to Africa
Ayalew said the strategy came out at a time when food security is at the center of political dialogues and unprecedented political buy-in.

“In Africa, there is a will not to get overwhelmed by the grim statistics of unsafe food, but to focus on implementing solutions. The strategy provides a mechanism to ensure that this momentum of food security prioritization does not become a passing cloud, but is harnessed to effectively address food security challenges. The focus on emerging challenges is a very welcome development,” he said.

If the strategy document is not implemented, it will be just another PDF on computers, Ayalew warned.

“This should be at the regional and national level through the development of strategies and action plans to capture local situations under the global umbrella. The African Union Commission has launched a strategy on food security [2022-2036]. This is aligned with the WHO strategy and focuses on African priorities, we want to emphasize domestic and traditional markets which supply the majority of food on the continent. No one entity can effectively raise the bar to implement the strategy and ensure food security, so collaboration is important. I express my hope that the renewed focus on evidence-based approaches will result in better generation, use and exchange of food safety data.

Don’t take food safety for granted
Speaking in another webinar on the occasion of World Food Safety Day (WFSD), Tom Heilandt, Secretary of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, said: “Last week some colleagues in Rome got sick while eating at the same cafe and they expressed how upset they were about it, it was a place they had trusted before.Then a colleague said it happens sometimes, food poisoning when working in the field is not that uncommon. So for some, food poisoning is a part of life due to their location, it’s sad. Food poisoning should be rare, everywhere .

“We have achieved so much, but we need to do more. We need the WFSD to remind us of this, because in many lucky places safe food is so common that we take it for granted, but maintaining food safety takes constant vigilance and hard work. Yet in other places food poisoning is so common it’s taken for granted, but we need the day to remind ourselves that it’s not normal and there’s a lot we can and should do about it. ‘to prevent. It’s good business to ensure food safety.

An event also took place on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube with WHO scientist Simone Moraes Raszl and FAO Food Safety Officer Jeffrey LeJeune to discuss food safety facts and demystify the popular myths, especially whether to eat food that has fallen on the floor, in June. 6.

LeJeune said: “Every day is a food safety day, we have to make sure food is safe every day. We want to make sure the food does not cause any disease. This has implications for health and trade. Everyone involved in the various stages is responsible for ensuring food safety.

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