World Health Day Letter from the Executive Director

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Shelley Feist, Executive Director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education, discusses World Health Day 2015.

The World Health Day has set aside April 7 to focus on food safety from farm to plate— the theme of World Health Day 2015.  WHO says the day focuses on “demonstrating the importance of food safety along the whole length of the food chain in a globalized world, from production and transport, to preparation and consumption.”

For its’ part, the non-profit Partnership for Food Safety Education will be working through social media on April 7 to recognize and pay tribute to the thousands of health and food safety educators, teachers, and community leaders, that work to teach consumers about the importance of safe food handling to reducing risk of illness – especially for young children and other vulnerable populations.

WHO’s 10 Facts on Food Safety include that “everybody has a role to play in keeping food safe”, (Fact 9) and “consumers should be well informed on food safety practices,” (Fact 10).  These are two important facts that sometimes get pushed down in priority when the food industry is focusing on production, transport, and sales of food.   But these two facts are the basis for the work of the Partnership and its network of BAC Fighters in the United States.

And we agree with WHO’s statement that “People should make informed and wise food choices and adopt adequate behaviors. They should know common food hazards and how to handle food safely, using the information provided in food labelling.”  But as any consumer knows, labels on food might give you some of the steps to keeping food safe (it might give you the safe end-point temperature, for example), but protecting one’s health includes preparing for handling food by first washing hands thoroughly with soap and running water whenever possible;  using a food thermometer to measure if food has reached a safe temperature –not guessing based on whether it looks hot; and being aware of how actions at home might spread harmful bacteria from a raw food to a surface or to hands, and other methods of cross-contamination.

In the United States consumers benefit from a required meat and poultry safe handling label.  Consumers should always take notice of the label, and encourage children to read the label with them when they prepare these products.  For the full range of simple but critical steps to reducing risk of foodborne illness, consumers should turn to Clean, Separate, Cook and Chill, and to fightbac.org as a source to be informed about and involved as active partners in the food safety chain of prevention.