The first ever world food safety day was celebrated on June 7, 2019 having been adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018. This year’s theme is “Food safety, everyone’s business.” It sure is everybody’s business to ensure the world achieves not just food security but sustainable and hygienic food that will promote better nutrition for people all over the world.
Food safety refers to the absence of hazards in food that can cause harm to the health of consumers. It may also refer to safe and acceptable levels of substances which would otherwise have been considered harmful in consumables.
This means that harmful substances may be present in food substances but in levels that are acceptable according to the set food regulation standard. These standards may vary from country to country and regions too. In the US, the USDA regulates the safety of meat, poultry and egg products while the FDA regulates food safety for all other kinds of foods. It is common to find some foods totally banned from a region while another region accepts it consumption after approval through various food regulatory bodies whose main mandate is to govern and control toxicity levels of substances in consumer goods.
Food supply chain has become increasingly complex with the demand for food rising due to population increase. The population increase experienced in the world in the past decade has resulted in serious pressure on the food production and agricultural practices. The rising demand for food creates need for faster food production, faster food processing, faster transportation and efficient storage methods to enhance the shelf life. Longer shelf live has two fold benefit. One to counter climatic effects that may cause short shortage in some parts of the world and to counter the short shelf life of agricultural products.
It is every consumer’s right to expect that the food they purchase and consume is safe food for human consumption. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Consumers are always at a risk of contaminated food, unless everybody in the food production chain takes initiative to ensure food safety, the world has a long way to achieving safe food globally.
This is what gave rise to the 2019 World food safety day theme; Food safety, everyone’s business. We start with production, the farmer has to take personal the responsibility to ensure that fertilizers, used for food production do not have any adverse effects on humans. It would be best however if the world adopted organic farming methods and reduced the application of chemicals on plants. These may not have an immediate effect on health but prolonged exposure may have negative long-term health effects.
Food processing comes with value addition, which basically forms the core of agri-business. If organic vegetables undergo a value addition process that may result in exposure to harmful substances, then we lack in objectivity of food safety. As a result, food processors should ensure to comply to set standards of hygiene and consumer health to ensure food safety. Processing machines and methods should be compliant to regulations set by the health and safety regulators in governing areas of production.
The buck of the responsibility on food safety stops with the consumer. The big question is “is your food safe?” Unfortunately, this is a question that does not cross the mind of many consumers. It is your responsibility to ensure you buy food only from licensed food traders. When purchasing packed or frozen food, always check the expiry or sell by date stated on the packaging information. In addition, most food packages always provide a list of ingredients used to process the packaged food. Take time to read and internalize this.
There may be a carcinogenic ingredient right there. It is stated for you to make an informed choice when making your purchase. A food ingredient may be traced to have adverse negative health effects when consumed in large quantities. The food processor is not wrong using the said ingredient in food processing. He states it so that you as a consumer can make an informed decision when purchasing and consuming the product.
Sometimes food goes bad due to poor storage after purchase. If possible, buy and consume fresh foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Food tastes and has better nutritional value when fresh as opposed to frozen or canned.
However, if you have to store your fruits and vegetables, hygienic storage is paramount. Clean your refrigerator on a regular. Use lockable air tight, anti-bacterial fridge containers to store food.
The world cannot achieve food security until we achieve food safety. The provision of food does not cut across food availability unless the food available is safe for human consumption and sustainable health. The world is grappling with food insecurity, but it is also faced with the challenge of food safety. Clean, uncontaminated safe food availed to the world will guarantee food security.
Measures have to be in place for the world to have access to safe, food at an affordable cost on a daily basis. Sustainable food safety is one way to achieve food security.