Food safety is a major determinant of health. It affects the survival, well-being, livelihood and productivity of individuals and eventually societies. Throughout the world, foodborne diseases represent a considerable public health burden and challenge.
In the South-East Asia Region, nearly 150 million people fell ill with foodborne diseases in 2010, which led to 175 000 deaths. Of these, 40% of foodborne disease burden was among children under 5 years. Approximately 50% of malnutrition is caused not by a lack of food or poor diet, but due to poor water and sanitation facilities, and unhygienic practices leading to life-threatening disease and infections such as diarrhea.
Overuse of antimicrobials in veterinary and human medicine has led to antimicrobial resistance, which has now become one of the main threats to modern medicine.
Going beyond the conventional definition of food safety, unsafe food also means food that can harm through unhealthy fats, high energy density and high salt content, contributing to increased risk of noncommunicable diseases. Street food, which is commonly consumed in all parts of the country, often poses a health hazard as it is contaminated with infectious viruses and bacteria, leading to various food borne diseases.
Through its resolution WHA53.15, the Fifty-third World Health Assembly in 2000, urged Member States to recognize food safety as an essential public health function and to help reduce the burden of foodborne disease.
The theme of the World Health Day 2015 was ‘From Farm to Plate, Make Food Safe’, emphasizing the importance of looking at the entire food chain to make food safe. In India, food safety has obvious and direct linkages with the Swachh Bharat (Clean India) initiative of the Prime Minister. It also has linkages with government’s ‘Make in India’ campaign to realize India’s huge potential in the export of high value agricultural produce.