World Health Day 2015: WHO calls for safe food, from farm to plate

To create greater awareness about food safety, the theme of World Health Day 2015, the WHO Country Office for India in collaboration with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) organized a national consultation on 1 April 2015 at New Delhi.

Aimed at encouraging policy makers and relevant stakeholders to integrate ‘food safety’ into the broader food policy and inform consumers about having safe food, the national consultation was addressed by Mr Bhanu Pratap Sharma, Secretary (Health & Family Welfare), Government of India and Chairperson, Food Safety and Standards Association of India (FSSAI).

Also present at the consultation were: Mr Keshav Desiraju, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, Government of India; Dr Jagdish Prasad, Director General Health Services, MoHFW; Mr Anshu Prakash, Joint Secretary, MoHFW; Mr Sudhanshu Pandey, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Commerce; Mr Utpal Kumar Singh, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture; Mr Y. S. Malik, CEO, FSSAI, MoHFW, and Dr S. Venkatesh, Director, National Centre of Disease Control (NCDC), MoHFW, amongst other eminent industry experts, nongovernmental organizations and civil society organizations.

WHO has dedicated the 2015 World Health Day to food safety - to catalyse collective government and public action to put measures in place that will improve safety of food from farm to plate.

In her World Health Day message, Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director, World Health Organization, South-East Asia Region said, “Political awareness and consumer education on food safety will help to strengthen enforcement of food standards, improve hygienic practices, and prevent foodborne illnesses. The most pertinent of all the measures is creating awareness among people to ensure that their food is safe.”

Speaking at the national consultation, Dr Nata Menabde, WHO Representative to India said, “Food safety is an issue of growing public health concern. To achieve food safety, strong functional links must be built between the public health and other sectors to ensure effective cross-sectoral collaboration.”

“In India, food safety has obvious and direct linkages with the Swachh Bharat initiative of the Prime Minister that promotes cleanliness and hygiene, which are the key factors influencing food safety, thereby reducing the socio-economic impact of foodborne illnessesses,” she added.

The consultation saw active participation of different ministries and other stakeholders in the area of food safety. The discussions focused on a broad range of food safety issues, including, production, nutrition, regulations, safety of street food, consumer awareness, animal-human interface of foodborne illnesses, and burden of foodborne illnesses in India.

The panel discussion at the national consultation emphasised on the need for multisectoral collaboration from food production to consumption and cooperation from all sectors for compliance of food standards.

On the occasion, the WHO Country Office for India also gave out the Public Health Champion Awards for outstanding contribution to public health in India. These awards are an attempt to recognize and honour the best in the field in order to encourage them to press forward and others to emulate them.

The award winners were: SEWA Rural; Community Health Department, Christian Medical College, Vellore; Biocon Foundation and Dr Vinod K. Paul, AIIMS for sustained contribution to public health. In the category of innovation, the awardees were Narayana Health and Ekjut.

State-level consultations on the theme of World Health Day will also be held at Bangalore, Kolkata, Patna and Raipur.