The first World Food Safety Day was held on June 7 with deputy commissioner for food policy and response Frank Yiannas representing the Food and Drug Administration. The theme of the event was “Food Safety Is Everyone’s Business.”
“Food safety is an issue that transcends international borders,” Yiannas said. “Foodborne pathogens do not recognize boundaries or borders, so when it comes to protecting consumers, neither should we. It’s estimated that foodborne illnesses are responsible for 420,000 deaths annually around the world, 125,000 of them in children under age 5. Think about that. It’s not just a sad statistic — it’s a public health call to action. It’s almost twice the estimated deaths in the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. It’s roughly 229 times the people who died when Hurricane Katrina hit our Gulf Coast in 2005. In the United States alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 3,000 people die each year from foodborne illnesses.”
Food safety is a global concern since food is imported and exported throughout the world. In the U.S. alone, 15 percent of all food — including 32 percent of fresh vegetables, 55 percent of fruit and at least 94 percent of all seafood – is imported from more than 200 countries.
“To protect the food supply, we must use a variety of tools,” Yiannas said. “Rules, response and compliance activities are common, and critical, tools for food policy makers and regulators. But as nations we must go beyond merely having rules and regulations. We must also foster, support, and strengthen food safety cultures on our farms, in our food facilities, and in our nations. We will not make dramatic improvements in reducing the global burden of foodborne disease without strengthening a culture of food safety and doing more to influence and change human behavior. In fact, I like to say, simply put, food safety equals behavior.”
The FDA has three missions to help with food safety. The first is the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act of 2011, which places science and risk-based standards on the production, packing, holding and transportation of foods. The second is called a “New Era of Smarter Food Safety,” which explores the use of technology to create a safer food system. The final mission is the FDA’s Nutrition Innovation Strategy of 2018, which gives consumers information, including updated Nutrition Facts labels.