Is The Food On Your Table Safe To Eat?

On World Food Safety Day, it is important to remember that unsafe food practices claim approximately 4,20,000 lives annually across the world. According to the World Health Organisation, 1 out of 10 people fall ill after consuming contaminated food worldwide each year.

Arshi Khanam | Jun 07, 2020

Food is a basic necessity of life, along with clothing and shelter, yet poverty deprives millions of people from accessing clean and hygienic food.

India is blessed with natural resources and abundance of raw materials. However, salubrious food is still a luxury for many Indians. With an abysmally low score of 30.3 on the Global Hunger Index of 2019 - India dropped from 97 out of 118 countries in the Global Health Index in 2016 to 102 out of 117 nations in 2019.

The COVID-19 pandemic has kicked poor people right in their stomachs, leaving them reeling between seasonal hunger and chronic hunger. With the extended lockdown and economic slowdown, their situation seems to be worsening by the day. As days turn into weeks, the growling of their empty stomachs is getting louder, and their despair and desperation has to led to children being forced to scavenge for food or leftovers in garbage dumps.. WHO estimates that nearly 30 % of food borne deaths occurs among children under 5 years of age.

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The second World Food Safety Day (WFSD) is being marked today (June 7) after the first event stirred the conscience of the world. Last year, the United Nation General Assembly adopted a resolution to promote food safety everywhere. This year too, it seeks to draw attention and inspire action to help, prevent, detect, and manage food borne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism, and sustainable development.

Due to the pandemic, the event -- including discussions, webinars, will be conducted online and promoted on social media with hashtags like 'World Food Safety Day,' and 'WFSD.'
The objective is to strengthen and ensure food safety for everyone, irrespective of their financial or social status, caste, religion, gender or ethnicity. Food is a fundamental right for all humans, and access to nutritious diet has a direct impact on the growth of every nation.

Safety First

From farm to frying pan, and then to our dining tables, the food we consume comes to us after exposure and contact with different surfaces and hands. This often leads to cross-contamination, where dangerous bacteria gets transferred from a contaminated source to the food. Therefore, care is required at every step till the food reaches the table. A research study found that food borne diseases are expected to rise from 100 million in 2011 to 150-177 million, by 2030. Affluent and urban households are more likely to be affected due to the high consumption of meat and processed food.

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As per a 2019 report published in the journal 'Lancet' - India ranks second after China in terms of 'poor diet,' leading to a terrible death toll (1,573,595). The shocking fact is that the
inadequate and unhealthy diet of poor migrants or laborers is due to their financial constraints, many urban people choose this diet, knowingly and sometimes unknowingly.Blessed are those who get to eat three square meals a day, while millions go to bed hungry and suffer from chronic malnourishment.

The Integrated Disease Surveillance Program of the Indian Ministry of Health & Family Welfare-warns that incidents of food poisoning is becoming increasingly common across the country.

Sharing and Caring -

Food safety is a shared responsibility between governments, producers, and consumers, where everybody plays a key-role in ensuring awareness towards food safety. With the onset of WFSD, WHO calls upon countries to join hands together and reduce the burden globally.

Here are some simple yet effective steps we can take to ensure that the food we eat is safe

1. Cleanliness: A momentary negligence in cleaning can turn infection into a disease. Hence, wash your hands, kitchen countertops, cooking ware, and everything thoroughly. Wash, rub, rinse, and disinfect every single surface, and 70% of the work is done.

2. Separate: Always separate raw meat from other food items, as the bacteria can cross contaminate easily via chopping boards or the cleaning cloth used while handling raw meat.

3. Cooking: Undercooked food is another major cause for food borne illnesses. Therefore, experts recommend that we cook food, especially meat or poultry, thoroughly to avoid any kind of contamination.