International food safety conference opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia today aiming at building up political support to address global food safety challenges.
“Like air & water, food is fundamental to life itself. We need it to survive & thrive. Food is an essential part of what it means to be human. Which is why unsafe food is so unacceptable,” said Tewodros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO), opening the meeting this morning at the Africa Union Headquarters.
Researchers from around the world are expected to reflect on different topics related to food safety during the two days meeting.
Reports show that with an estimated 600 million cases of food-born illnesses annually, unsafe food is a threat to human health and economies.
Food-born diseases are dis-proportionally affecting vulnerable and marginalized people, especially women and children, populations affected by conflict and migrants, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“Ongoing changes in climate, global food production and supply systems affect consumers, industry and the planet itself. These changes can have an impact on food safety systems and pose sustainability and development challenges,” FAO says.
The participants will also discuss ways on how to align food safety strategies and approaches across sectors and borders to reinforce efforts to reach the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and supporting the UN Decade of Action on Nutrition.
During the panel discussions before lunchtime agriculture and health ministers from from several countries reflected on health, trade and agriculture matters.
The issues raised includes:
– the burden of food-born diseases and the benefits of investing in safe food;
– safe and sustainable food systems in an era of accelerated climate change;
– science, innovation and digital transformation at the service of food safety; and
– empowering consumers to make healthy choices and support sustainable food systems.
The conference is expected to result in a high-level political statement advocating for increased and better coordinated collaboration and support to improve food safety globally, according to its organizers – FAO, WHO and the African Union.