UN agencies urge vigilance on food safety
Pointing to weaknesses in food safety systems around the world, two United Nations agencies today urged all countries to be vigilant when dealing with traders and producers that affect the supply line.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) cited the discovery of the industrial chemical melamine in animal and fish feed and the unauthorized use of certain veterinary drugs in intensive aquaculture as examples of how a lack of vigilance can affect health and international trade.
The agencies blamed a lack of knowledge of food safety requirements as well as “the illegal or fraudulent use of ingredients including unauthorized food additives or veterinary drugs,” according to a news release.
During the last 12 months, an average of up to 200 food safety incidents per month have been investigated by WHO and FAO to determine their public health impact.
“Food safety is an issue for every country and ultimately every food consumer. All countries can benefit from taking stronger measures to fill safety gaps in the sometimes considerable journey food takes from the farm to the table,” said Jørgen Schlundt, Director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety, Zoonoses and Foodborne Diseases.
“Countries are only able to keep their shares in globalized food markets and the trust of consumers if they apply internationally agreed food quality and safety standards,” said Ezzeddine Boutrif, Director of FAO’s Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division. “Consumers have a right to be informed about potential hazards in food and to be protected against them.”
The agencies said both developed and developing countries can have fragmented food safety systems that often do not include or cover primary production where many problems originate. They noted for example the spread in recent years of new Salmonella strains in poultry originated in developed countries and was spread globally through trade.
FAO and WHO are supporting national governments to improve the institutional set up and the performance of food inspection, enforcement, laboratory analysis and diagnosis, certification, food-borne disease surveillance, emergency preparedness and response. They also provide scientific advice on many food safety issues such as food additives, chemical and microbiological contaminants, and agro-chemical residues.