The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching its Global Strategy for Food Safety 2022-2030 (GSFS), which was adopted at the 75th Session of the World Health Assembly. According to the WHO, the strategy is a step forward in creating a healthier and safer world with more robust economies and food systems. 

“The launch marks a milestone in WHO work to promote health, keep the world safe and protect the vulnerable,” the organization says.

The GSFS was developed to aid WHO member states in their efforts to monitor, evaluate, prioritize and plan actions related to reducing foodborne diseases (FBDs) through global cooperation and the fortification of food safety systems. The associated report found that unsafe foods can affect human development, nutrition and food security, and agricultural and international trade, upending local and national economies.

The fight to end hunger

The strategy is meant to promote the development and implementation of new food safety technologies and reflect feedback through a consultation process with United Nations (UN) agencies, non-governmental organizations, intergovernmental organizations, academic institutions and public health and safety officials from all member states. 

It is further meant to give stakeholders the necessary tools to strengthen their food safety systems and help curb the prevalence of FBDs by addressing current and emerging challenges such as sustainability, climate change and new and novel microorganisms. 

The goal is to cut the incidence of foodborne diarrheal diseases by 40% as part of its sustainable development goal (SDG) to end hunger. The goal holds that unsafe foods can create a “vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition,” noting that children cannot develop properly and nor can people achieve food security if the food available to them is not safe to eat.

“Every year, one in ten people globally fall ill due to foodborne diseases,” states the WHO. “Contaminated food can cause over 200 diseases, and the magnitude of public health burden is comparable to malaria or HIV AIDS.” “Children under five are at higher risk, as one in six deaths from diarrhea is caused by unsafe food.

Focusing on the fundamentals

The WHO states that it has five main priorities on which it intends to focus, each reinforcing the other and having its own objectives. Furthermore, the WHO says these priorities can help build cost-effective, evidence-based, people-centered, forward-looking and proactive food safety systems and the associated infrastructures. 

The priorities will be to: strengthen control systems at the national levels as well as strengthening communication of risk factors and stakeholder involvement; improve the food chain information by using scientific evidence to aid in risk assessment and management; identify challenges created by global challenges that can entirely transform food systems; and promote food safety in international, domestic and regional trade.

“Simply put, there is no food security and nutrition without food safety,” reads the report. “Food must be safe, available, accessible, nutritious, culturally acceptable and ingested regularly for growth, health and well-being.” 

“Unsafe food increases infection and intoxication, creating a vicious cycle of disease, malnutrition and disability, particularly affecting vulnerable groups.”

A long time coming

The WHO’s efforts to strengthen food safety were initially adopted at the 73rd Session of the World Health Assembly in 2020. Resolution 73.5 called for the WHO to update the GSFS to address modern challenges and possible solutions by incorporating innovation and technology. 

After two years of research, the WHO published its report in May of 2022 and will now work to implement the strategies outlined therein on a global level.

“The WHO, together with the Food and Agriculture Association of the UN, will synthesize evidence by catalyzing and coordinating the scientific advice and research related to food safety and nutrition and regularly update the global burden estimates for the FBDs and zoonotic diseases,” states the report.

“In the meantime, based on the initiatives on the WHO organizational impact measurement framework, WHO will monitor the evolution and changes of food safety risks over time and evaluate the solutions implemented in terms of implementation rates, cost-effectiveness, health impacts and risk reduction.”

By William Bradford Nichols

Source: Nutrition Insight

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