Food safety is a hidden, and often overlooked, problem. Most people suffering from diarrhoea do not consult a physician. Diseases and deaths might be attributed to other causes, even when the food that people have eaten is the culprit. How often do we hear the phrase “It must be something I ate”? Foodborne diseases, caused either by an acute infection with a pathogen or by chronic exposure to chemicals, are largely under-reported
This year the World Health Day is celebrated under the theme “food safety”, with WHO highlighting the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety under the slogan “From farm to plate, make food safe”. The intention is to catalyse collective public and governments to focus more on improving safety of food from farms, factories, kitchens and street vendor.
It is important to ask ourselves questions like “is the food in my plate nutritious, healthy and safe? “Food security is always an issue that need to be addressed urgently as it contributes to 2 million deaths annually.
The recent Ebola outbreak is one of the consequences of consumption of unsafe/contaminated food. Unsafe food can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances that cause more than 200 diseases - ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Unsafe foods include undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.
Five keys to safer food
Food safety is a shared responsibility. It is important to work all along the food production chain – from farmers and manufacturers to vendors and consumers. For example, WHO’s Five keys to safer food offer practical guidance to vendors and consumers for handling and preparing food:
Key 1: Keep clean
Key 2: Separate raw and cooked food
Key 3: Cook food thoroughly
Key 4: Keep food at safe temperatures
Key 5: Use safe water and raw materials.
By Mehlolo Maphanga