Food Safety, A Shared Responsibility

Currently, there is no evidence that the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can be transmitted through food.

For now, what is known globally is that the virus is transmitted primarily by infected people through coughing and sneezing droplets, which are then picked up by other people.

We also know that the best way to avoid the COVID-19 is through good hygiene practices, including from the point of food preparation to consumption.

Yesterday was celebrated as the second World Food Safety Day (WFSD), bringing into sharp focus the need to ensure that what we take in merits the effort we put into its preparation and the name.

The WFSD seeks to promote global awareness, with a call on countries and decision-makers, the private sector, civil society, United Nations organisations and the public to take action by highlighting what everyone can do to ensure food safety, and this cannot be underestimated.

Commemorated on the theme: “Food safety, everyone’s business”, the day clearly shows that we must all get involved to ensure food safety.

Many of us eat outside — restaurants, snack bars, coffee shops, ‘chop bars’, food vendors and hawkers along the streets — for which reason we cannot take the issue of food safety for granted, nor can we compromise on quality and the conditions under which the food must be prepared.

Indeed, the challenges with COVID-19 and the need for us to practise personal hygiene and follow safe health protocols make it even more imperative for those involved in the production of food — from the farmer or the factory, through to the various processing and delivery channels till it gets to the consumer’s home or table — to be alert to their responsibilities. 

Whether we grow, harvest, process, transport, store, distribute, sell, prepare, serve or consume food, we have a role to play in keeping food safe and healthy.

The celebration of the WFSD is timely and opportune, as it draws attention and inspires action to help prevent, detect and manage food-borne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development. 

The commemoration of the day, which follows the success of the first commemoration in 2019, reinforces the call to strengthen the commitment to scale-up food safety made by the Addis Ababa Conference and the Geneva Forum in 2019 under the umbrella of “The Future of Food Safety”. 

The Daily Graphic is aware that the World Health Organisation ((WHO), in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, is facilitating efforts by member states in observing the day.

We share in the view that food safety is a shared responsibility among governments, producers and consumers, and that each and every one of us has a role to play towards achieveing that objective.

The paper would like to remind all that food can be said to be safe when there is the absence of hazards, or the level of hazard is acceptable, and it is not likely to cause any harm to the final consumer.

We are happy that through the celebration of the WFSD, the WHO pursues its efforts to mainstream food safety in the public sphere and reduce the burden of food-borne diseases globally and we all have a chance to recognise the people who help keep our food safe.

The Daily Graphic has observed that with an estimated 600 million cases of food-borne illnesses annually, according to the WHO, unsafe food remains a threat to human health and economies, disproportionally affecting vulnerable and marginalised people, especially women and children, populations affected by conflict and migrants.

We regret that an estimated three million people around the world, in both developed and developing countries, die every year from food and water-borne diseases.

We wish to reiterate the fact that food is the starting point for our energy, health and well-being, but we often take it for granted that it is safe. In an increasingly complex and inter-connected world where food value chains are growing longer, standards and regulations are that much more important in keeping us safe.