WHO: 1.6 M People Worldwide Affected Daily By Contaminated Food

In an alarming revelation, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that approximately 1.6 million people around the world fall ill daily due to the consumption of contaminated and unsafe food. This shoking statistic underscores the critical importance of food safety practices globally. Saima Wazed, the regional director at WHO, highlighted the significant impact of foodborne illnesses, particularly on vulnerable populations such as children under five, during her statement on World Food Safety Day, marked annually on June 7. 

According to WHO's recent findings, millions are affected by unsafe food, with South-East Asia emerging as the second most affected region after Africa. Saima Wazed emphasized that 40 per cent of those who fall ill from foodborne diseases are children under five. These children, already at higher risk of malnutrition and mortality, are severely impacted by the consumption of contaminated food. This revelation came in a report presented by Saima Wazed, calling attention to the pressing issue of food safety on a global scale. 

The economic consequences of foodborne illnesses are equally dire. WHO estimates that contaminated food leads to an annual loss of 110 billion dollars in low-and middle-income countries due to reduced productivity and increased medical costs. These staggering figures highlight the urgent need for improved food safety measures worldwide. 

Saima Wazed pointed out that South-East Asia's high incidence of foodborne illnesses is partly due to its tropical climate, which fosters the spread of pests and toxins. Climate change exacerbates these issues, making the region particularly vulnerable. Wazed stressed that food safety is a collective responsibility, involving governments, producers, and consumers. She urged a global commitment to promoting safe food practices to improve public health outcomes. 

World Food Safety Day, established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, serves as a vital platform to raise awareness about food safety issues. This year's theme, "Prepare for the Unexpected," encourages proactive measures to prevent, detect, and respond to food safety threats. 

FSSAI Suggests How to Keep Food Safe 

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has outlined essential guidelines to help maintain food safety and reduce the risk of contamination. These guidelines include: 

Keep Clean 

Maintaining cleanliness is the first step towards ensuring food safety. It is crucial to wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before handling food and during food preparation. Additionally, surfaces and utensils used for preparing food should be kept clean to prevent cross-contamination. 

Separate Raw and Cooked Food 

Raw food, especially meat, poultry, and seafood, can harbour harmful bacteria. It is important to separate raw and cooked food to prevent the transfer of pathogens. Using separate cutting boards and utensils for raw and cooked food can significantly reduce the risk of contamination. 

Cook Thoroughly 

Proper cooking is essential to kill harmful bacteria present in food. Food should be cooked to the recommended temperatures to ensure safety. For instance, poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C), while ground meats should reach 160°F (71°C). 

Keep Food at Safe Temperatures 

Temperature control is vital in preventing the growth of harmful bacteria. Perishable foods should be stored at safe temperatures, with cold foods kept below 40°F (4°C) and hot foods maintained above 140°F (60°C). Proper refrigeration and heating practices are essential to maintain food safety. 

Use Safe Water and Raw Materials 

Ensuring the use of safe water and raw materials is crucial in preventing foodborne illnesses. Water used in food preparation should be clean and safe, and raw materials should be sourced from reputable suppliers to reduce the risk of contamination.