Humanity is at a crossroads, and a host of safety issues, including those related to food safety, threaten the very survival on planet Earth. Against this backdrop, the question of food safety and quality has been gaining considerable importance at national and international levels. Enhanced food safety is the key to good health and long life.
Food safety, besides reducing food-borne diseases, enhances food security, trade and income generation – thus assisting in poverty alleviation, raising living standard and stimulating economic development. Unsafe foods containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances cause over 200 types of diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers. Moreover, food-borne and water-borne diseases kill an estimated 2 million people annually, mostly children. Food supply chains now cross national borders. Only effective collaboration between governments, producers and consumers will help ensure food safety.
New threats to food safety are constantly emerging. Changes in food production, distribution and consumption, changes in the environment, new and emerging pathogens, anti-microbial resistance – all these pose challenges to national food safety systems. Unfortunately, most of the initiatives by the government on food safety in India fail to serve their purpose owing to fragmented legislation, multiple jurisdiction as well as weaknesses in surveillance, monitoring and enforcement. The result is that they do not ensure safety, hygiene or quality. Nevertheless, the Food Security Act passed by the Indian Parliament recently is a revolutionary initiative that can go a long way in solving the food security problems in the country.
The need of the hour is strong involvement of state governments in the implementation of such legislation with uniform and effective enforcement across the country. Also needed is greater involvement of the rural sector in food safety issues and coordination of the policies relating to food security and food processing.
The focus of the current issue of Safety Messenger is food safety. Hope the articles on food safety in this issue will give more insight into this topical issue and serve as an eye-opener.