The World Health Organisation (WHO) is recently promoted World Health Day with the theme “From Farm to Plate, Make Food Safe.” WHO estimates that unsafe food is linked to the deaths of 2 million people annually – including many children. Food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances can cause more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancers, a major health concern for all people on the planet.
Even though our food supply in the Australia is among the safest in the world, the Commonwealth Department of Health estimates that there are about 5.4 million annual cases of foodborne illness. Each year these illnesses result in an estimated 128,000 hospitalizations and 125 deaths. The people most likely to become ill from unsafe food, and to be hospitalized or die as a result, are older Australian, very young children, pregnant women, and people with illness or medical treatments that affect their immune systems, such as diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and organ transplants.
Foodborne illnesses occur because of environmental pollution or mishandling somewhere along the food chain from farm to table. Food may become unsafe because of contaminants in soil or water or inadequate safety measures in processing, transportation, or storage. It can also occur because of unsafe handling by workers in the food industry, or by consumers preparing food at home. Ensuring the safety of our food supply requires a farm-to-table approach. This means we are all a part of the food chain—including farmers, processors, transporters, retailers and food service workers, and consumers—and have responsibility for minimizing the risk of food contamination and helping to lower the danger of foodborne illness.