7 April: World Health Day
World Health Day (WHD) 2015 was observed globally on 7 April 2015. The theme for the year is From farm to plate, make food safe.
The theme was selected by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to bring focus on growing global burden of food borne diseases and underscore the need for coordinated cross-border action across the entire food supply chain i.e. from farm to plate.
To mark the day, the World Health Organisation (WHO) conducted various programmes across the world in close cooperation with government agencies and civil society to spread awareness on food safety issues related to the entire spectrum of food supply chain.
The day is celebrated every year since it was first celebrated in 1950 to mark the anniversary of the WHO formation in 1948.
The theme of the WHD 2014 was Small bite, big threat which focused on vector borne diseases.
Unsafe foods and its consequences
Unsafe food contains harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances and causes more than 200 diseases - ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. Examples of unsafe food include undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with feces and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.
According to WHO’s Food borne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) data related to 2010:
a) There were an estimated 582 million cases of 22 different food borne enteric (intestine related) diseases and 351000 associated deaths
b) The African region recorded the highest disease burden for enteric food borne diseases, followed by South-East Asia.
c) Over 40 percent people suffering from enteric diseases caused by contaminated food were children aged under 5 years.
Unsafe food also poses major economic risks, especially in a globalized world. Germany’s 2011 E.coli outbreak reportedly caused 1.3 billion US dollars in losses for farmers and industries and 236 million US dollars in emergency aid payments to 22 European Union Member States.
Steps taken by the WHO to make food safe
1962: WHO joined the Codex Alimentarius Commission which developed and enforces Codex Alimentarius, a collection of international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice covering all the main foods.
2004: WHO-FAO International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was established in partnership with the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation) to ensure effective and rapid communication during food safety emergencies.
2004: It released five keys to safer foods viz., keep clean, separate raw and cooked food, cook thoroughly, keep food at safe temperature and use safe water and raw material to prevent food borne diseases.
2007: It set up the Food borne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) to advise on matters of global food borne diseases.
When: 7 April 2015