The theme of “World Health Day” on April 7th is “food safety is the shared responsibility of everyone who grows, processes, transports, stores, sells and consumes food.” This may surprise people who have often been worried about food safety in recent years: has the problem become a worldwide issue?
In a way, it’s Yes.
Earlier, the World Health Organization issued a report on March 31: changes in food production, sales and consumption, as well as environmental changes, emerging pathogens and antimicrobial resistance, have brought challenges to the national food safety system, and increased travel and trade have also increased the likelihood of international spread of contaminated food.
In particular, disease-causing organisms in food are widely spread over long distances through today’s interconnected global food chains, causing the frequency and extent of food-borne illness to escalate and expand, and food contamination at one source is likely to be largely spread, and thus lead to serious health and economic consequences. For this reason, WHO’s new data on food-borne disease hazards highlights the global threat posed by unsafe food and the need for concerted cross-border action throughout the food supply chain.
This also shows us: pay attention to food safety when there is a broader perspective.
In general, food safety mainly involves three aspects: from the perspective of quantity, it is necessary to ensure the balance between supply and demand and meet the demand for food quantity; from the perspective of quality, the nutritional structure of food is required to be reasonable, high quality and health without pollution; from the perspective of development, the acquisition of agricultural products requires attention to the good protection of the ecological environment and the sustainability of resource utilization.
However, it is difficult for the public to know what kind of process they have experienced in reaching the food on the table. From upstream agriculture to midstream food manufacturing, food distribution and catering, and finally to downstream consumers, it involves innovations in various systems, administrative measures, food and other related technologies – all of which constitute a complex food consumption system. Food safety supervision is difficult. One important reason is that the chain from the head to the table is long and has many links. Its regulatory focus has also shifted from the final food testing to the full control of production and operation, establishing a food safety supervision system from farm to table.
However, on overall, food safety issues are complex and severe, but as long as you think about the various aspects of food from raw materials to the table, you can know where the problem may come from: soil, air, and water are sources of various environmental pollution; chemical fertilizers, herbicides, veterinary drugs, nitrites, etc. are sources of cultivation and pollution; packaging pollution, additive abuse, adulteration with non-food substances, and various microbial contamination are all dangerous sources of processed foods. The potential risks of cross-contamination, food spoilage and widespread spread of contaminated food due to the expansion and complication of the food supply chain are also worthy of attention.
It should be pointed out that the public is usually accustomed to arranging food additives, pesticide residues, genetically modified foods, etc. at the forefront of food consumption risks or potential risks of health damage, and the biggest threat to food-borne diseases is not yet given enough attention to the food safety. In fact, for the general population, microbial contamination is the biggest threat to human health in food-borne infectious diseases. Most of these food-borne diseases are caused by bacteria, viruses, worms and fungi, and are usually concealed and difficult to control. Once they occur, they are fulminant. The abuse of antibiotics by the public after the onset of food-borne illness is also very worrying, as it will lead to an increase in the number of resistant bacteria, and in the long run is a threat to food safety.
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To cope with and manage food safety risks throughout the supply chain, establish a sound food safety management system, comprehensively improve the level of food safety, and strive to create a rational food consumption environment, we urgently need to look at food safety issues with a broader perspective.