The World Health Organization (“WHO”) dedicated last week’s World Health Day to spreading awareness of food safety. World Health Day is celebrated on April 7 each year to mark the anniversary of the 1948 founding of the WHO. In the past, the WHO has highlighted issues such as vector-borne diseases, hypertension, and aging. This year, the WHO focused on food safety and called on everyone involved in food production and handling to help prevent and detect foodborne and waterborne diseases.

This year’s theme, “Food Safety: From Farm to Plate, Keep it Safe” highlighted the importance of keeping food safe throughout the supply chain and around the world. Over 200 diseases are caused by unsafe foods that contain harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, and chemical substances. The WHO estimates that over two million deaths occur each year worldwide from contaminated food or drinking water.

To bring these numbers down, the WHO used World Health Day to callon policymakers around the world to build and maintain adequate food safety systems and infrastructures, respond to and manage food safety risks along the entire food chain, integrate food safety into broader food policies and programs, and foster communication, information sharing, and joint action between public health, animal health, agriculture, and other sectors. To help spread the message, the WHO developed a set of campaign tools in six languages, including the WHO’s Five Keys to Safer Food, an online food safety quiz, and feature stories exploring various food safety topics.

In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration highlighted its commitment to food safety through its Food Safety Modernization Act, as well as other international standards that help establish a more modern and risk-focused food safety system. It also said it is increasing its global collaborations to leverage the work of the WHO and other global organizations like the UN. The FDA also took the opportunity to remind Americans to do what they can to make sure their food is safe from production to consumption.

World Health Day was also recognized in Canada. On World Health Day, the Canadian government reiterated its commitment to the importance of food safety, with the announcement on April 7, 2015 of $30.7 million to establish a food safety information network. The network is aimed at allowing real time sharing of information across a network to inform more preventative and timely risk management decisions. It will be implemented over five years, linking federal and provincial food safety establishments and accredited laboratories across the country. Federal partners include the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada. The goal is to standardize food safety testing and leverage existing laboratory capacity and enhance Canada's ability to provide evidence of the integrity of Canada's food supply to trading partners.