WHO, FAO, WFP highlight importance of food safety in COVID-19 backdrop | Daily News

WHO, FAO, WFP highlight importance of food safety in COVID-19 backdrop

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened awareness about the need for personal hygiene measures, such as frequent hand-washing; however, World Food Safety Day (WFSD) is a good reminder that proper hygiene practices are always important when preparing and handling food.

This was stated on Monday, in a joint communiqué issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and World Food Programme (WFP).

This year, World Food Safety Day is dedicated to everyone who helped ensure the COVID-19 crisis does not interrupt supply chains. To all those that guaranteed safe food remained available, contributing to the consumption of healthy diets; from the workers in the fields to those in the supermarkets, to all those preparing food for others and themselves; we thank you, and we celebrate you. World Food Safety Day, adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, is celebrated on June 7. It kick-starts a series of global initiatives to promote awareness, and urge actions by highlighting what everyone can do to ensure food safety, the statement said.

Current scientific evidence show that COVID-19 is not transmitted through properly cooked food. It is important to apply sound principles of environmental sanitation, personal hygiene, and established food safety practices from farm to fork. This prevents bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances from entering the body through contaminated food or water. Proper cleaning measures and prevention of cross-contamination are critical in the control of food-borne illnesses, the statement added.

Dr. Razia Pendse, WHO Representative to Sri Lanka, said, “World Food Safety Day, this year, comes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and is a reminder that public health, including food safety, is ‘everyone’s business’. This WFSD, we focus on marketplaces and highlight the key actions that both food service vendors and customers can take to ensure food safety, while also taking measures for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. Healthy marketplaces provide communities with affordable, safe, and healthy food choices, while contributing significantly to the promotion of healthy diets and healthy communities.”

In Sri Lanka, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, and the World Food Programme of the United Nations, have been working with the Government to improve food safety and quality. With markets gradually re-opening in a COVID-19 backdrop, WHO, the FAO, and the WFP have collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Indigenous Medical Services, to formulate and disseminate guidelines for food premises, the statement read.

These guidelines not only create a safe environment for traders and customers within the premises, but also ensure that any food item sold at markets, particularly ready-to-eat items, are safe for human consumption. The guidelines are also helpful for Public Health Inspectors to monitor safety standards in food premises and ensure that practices are in line with COVID-19 preventive measures, it added.

“Enforcing food safety regulations, standards and practices through wider awareness and adoption have never been more important than today,” Dr. Xuebing Sun, FAO Representative in Sri Lanka, said. “With economic activity resuming post-lockdown, the adoption of sustainable agriculture and hygienic practices will be vital to increase trade in agricultural commodities and consumer confidence. The FAO is working with partners such as the European Union and UNIDO to strengthen food safety and quality compliance in Sri Lanka.”

“Access to safe and nutritious food is crucial for the development of healthy communities,” Brenda Barton, WFP Country Director in Sri Lanka, said. “Food security and food safety must go hand in hand, and we need to develop overarching food systems that ensure food safety and quality, with affordable and nutritious food for all. The health and well-being of the nation depend on it.” Food-borne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining healthcare systems and harming national economies, tourism, and trade.

Today, food is processed in greater volumes and distributed over greater distances than ever before. Widespread collaboration and contributions of all actors in the food supply chain, as well as good governance and regulations, are essential to food safety, the statement said

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