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

A national consultation, organized by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) and WHO Country for India made a strong call for promoting food safety, the theme of this year’s World Health Day.

The consultation brought together all the stakeholders, from farm to plate, to discuss integration of ‘food safety’ into the broader food policy agenda and informing producers and consumers about the vital importance of safe food, and its impact on public health.

Present at the consultation were: Mr Bhanu Pratap Sharma, Secretary (Health & Family Welfare), Government of India and Chairperson, Food Safety and Standards Association of India (FSSAI); 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.

In his address, Mr Bhanu Pratap Sharma, Secretary (Health & Family Welfare), Government of India highlighted the need for intersectoral convergence and enforcment at all levels.

“There is a need for greater awareness and giving correct information to all stakeholders and that’s where the role of WHO is extremely imprortant,” he added.

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 objective of the World Health Day, this year, is to catalyse collective government and public action to put measures in place that will improve safety of food by aligning policies in agriculture, trade, health, education and social protection to provide a safe and healthy diet for all.

Addressing issues related to food safety and food control systems, the panel discussion at the national consultation saw active deliberations on the need for multisectoral collaboration from food production to consumption and cooperation from all sectors for compliance of food standards.

Acknowledging the need to further improve the food safety systems, the forum extensively deliberated on the issues of production, regulations, nutrition, unhealthy food, safety of street food, consumer awareness, animal-human interface of foodborne diseases and strengthening surveillance of these diseases in India.

The consultation strongly advocated that the governments must partner with civil society, NGOs, private sector and consumers, to ensure that safe food becomes everybody’s business. Perspectives on ‘Serving Safe Food’ were presented by Akshayapatra and National Association of Street Vendors of India (NASVI), emphasising the importance of safe food.

On the occasion, the WHO Country Office for India awarded the Public Health Champions 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.

For more information, please contact:

Mr Rajeev Varma
Senior Communications Officer
WHO India Country Office
New Delhi
Tel: 91-11-47594800
Mobile: +91 8826611139

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