Sri Lanka Celebrates the Inaugural World Food Safety Day

24 June 2019, Colombo, Sri Lanka. The first ever United Nations World Food Safety Day was marked in Colombo by the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO). The national event which took place at the BMICH in Colombo in-line with the global theme “Food Safety, everyone’s business,” was held under the patronage of the Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine, Dr Rajitha Senaratne.

Speaking at the event, Honourable Minister, Dr Rajitha Senaratne stated, “Food safety is becoming a serious health challenge in Sri Lanka. Creating awareness about food safety amongst the general public, compliance of food establishments with food safety regulations and surveillance programmes with line Ministries are vital in ensuring food safety in the country”.

Emphasizing the burden of foodborne diseases, Dr Razia Pendse, WHO Representative to Sri Lanka stated, “Globally, an estimated 600 million fall ill and 420,000 lose their lives every year after eating contaminated food. In 2018, the burden of foodborne diseases in the WHO SEARO region was the second highest in all WHO regions with 150 million illnesses, 170,000 deaths.” She further said, “It is necessary to have clear standards, legislation, monitoring criteria and mechanisms to ensure food safety in Sri Lanka.”

Issuing a statement, Dr Xuebing Sun, the FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives said “Everyone has the right to safe, nutritious and sufficient food,” “Yet food safety is taken for granted. It is often invisible until you get food poisoning. When food is not safe, children cannot learn, adults cannot work. Human development cannot take place,” he stated further. Dr Sun reiterated that “whether you produce, process, sell or prepare food, then you have a role in keeping it safe. Everybody along the food chain, from farm to plate, is responsible for food safety.”

The event included several presentations by the Ministry of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine on food safety issues in Sri Lanka including The Progress of Food safety in Sri Lanka and National Food Safety Surveillance data 2017 – 2018. The Food (Registration of Premises) Regulation – 2019 was handed over to the dignitaries, and a new interactive website of the Directorate of Environment, Occupational Health and Food Safety for Sri Lanka was launched by the Hon. Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine.

The inaugural World Food Safety Day is an opportunity to strengthen efforts to ensure access to safe food for all in Sri Lanka. Access to safe food is critical to promoting health and ending hunger, two of the goals in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. WHO and FAO will continue to work closely with other stakeholders and partners to support member states in ensuring food safety along the entire food chain from production, regulation, storage, distribution and consumption.