Food safety: Everyone’s responsibility

JamesHospedales-1Port-of-Spain, Trinidad — “Food safety: from farm to plate, make food safe” is the theme of World Health Day 2015. On 7 April 2015, the Caribbean and the rest of the world focused on the challenges and opportunities for food safety along the whole length of the food chain from production and transport, to preparation and consumption.

Food safety and food borne diseases (FBD) continue to be a priority at the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA). Through its food-borne disease programme, the Agency has been leading the initiative for integrated FBD surveillance, including strengthening countries’ capacity to prevent, detect and respond to FBD concerns, including outbreak response.

“Food safety may be viewed as a cross-cutting issue and all have a role to play,” said Dr C James Hospedales, executive director of CARPHA.

Hospedales added, “Taking a farm to fork approach means that food producers, manufacturers, distributors and traders are responsible for the food they produce and trade. Additionally, consumers must always adhere to good food safety practices, especially when storing, handling and preparing food.”

In the Caribbean region, food-borne diseases continue to increase and have massive impacts on public health and the economy. Every year, thousands of people in the region experience one or more episodes of food-borne illness. Not only is there a health impact, but there are also economic impacts associated with unsafe food. Therefore, establishing food safety as a priority issue requires the participation of non-public health sectors, such as agriculture, education, environment, tourism, and trade and commerce. It also requires the active support and resources of major international and regional agencies and development partners.

Food production, trade and consumption are now globalised. This provides multiple opportunities for harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances to enter the food chain and contaminate food prior to consumption.

Dr Babatunde Olowokure, director of CARPHA Surveillance, Disease Prevention and Control pointed out, “Strengthening current surveillance and reporting systems will support CARPHA to identify and respond to outbreaks quickly and minimise, not only the health and social impact of unsafe food, but also the economic impact associated with food-borne outbreaks.”

CARPHA is actively working its member states to promote and strengthen integrated food-borne disease surveillance to reduce FBD incidence and outbreaks and improve food safety. In collaboration with regional and international partners, CARPHA has established a multidisciplinary, integrated farm to table approach to FBD surveillance and food safety.

At the national level, CARPHA continues to work with the ministries of health, Environment, Agriculture and others to integrate epidemiological, laboratory, environmental and veterinary health measures to protect the region from food safety risks.

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