Food quality and safety are becoming topics of global importance, as was proven by the First International Food Safety Conference held in February in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference, hosted by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the African Union (AU) brought together heads of state, health and agriculture ministers, international organizations, and other members from the public and private sectors with expertise in food safety.
The conference should be of particular interest to anyone considering food quality training, given its focus of improving global food safety standards. Below is a quick look at a few key takeaways from the conference and what impact they could have on food safety initiatives going forward.
1. The Impact of Unsafe Food Led to the First Food Safety Conference
Unsafe food has a significant impact on both human health and the global economy, yet that impact is often overlooked. For example, the WHO estimates that every year unsafe food causes 600 million people to fall ill and leads to 420,000 preventable deaths. Children under five carry 40 percent of all food borne illnesses. Low- and middle-income countries are worst affected, and lose $95 billion in lost productivity annually because of unsafe food. Due to these large impacts, it was decided that international cooperation was needed to improve the safety and quality of food across the globe. This conference is a step towards achieving that goal.
2. The Conference Identified Many Issues Related to Food Safety
One of the main objectives of the conference was to identify key actions and strategies for addressing food safety challenges. Food safety is a multifaceted issue and that fact was reflected in the issues that the conference identified as being of major importance for ensuring greater food safety.
For instance, participants looked at how the increasing complexity of the global food supply chain meant there was greater need for coordinating food safety regulations across borders. Most countries currently have food safety regulations, such as the Food and Drug Regulations in Canada that students at the Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences (AAPS) learn about in food quality courses. However, regulations are not always implemented consistently across borders. That means ensuring that food produced or manufactured in one country meets the safety standards of other countries is an ongoing challenge.
3. Students with Food Quality Training Should Keep Track of Follow-Up Developments
The conference is only the first step in an ongoing global effort to tackle food safety issues. In April, a follow-up conference will be held in Geneva called the International Forum on Food Safety and Trade. There, participants will build on the work done in Addis Ababa and discuss other challenges and opportunities related to food quality, like using new technologies to improve food safety, analyzing how food can be traded safely, and how to harmonize food safety regulations. Students in food quality training should pay particular attention to the outcome of this conference as it is expected to result in a number of recommendations for governments and food industry players about how food safety systems can be strengthened.
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