WHO Regional Director highlights three focus areas for South-East Asia Food Safety News

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According to the Director of the World Health Organization (WHO), progress on food security has brought benefits to Southeast Asia, including greater food security and more stable livelihoods.

In a speech to mark World Food Security Day, Director Poonam Khetarpal Singh said that in recent years, the region has played an important role in intensifying action to tackle food security issues.

About 600 million people fall ill each year and 420,000 die globally as they consume food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or chemicals. The WHO South-East Asia region is particularly affected, accounting for approximately 150 million illnesses and 175,000 deaths, estimated at $ 95 billion in countries with cost productivity.

“Since 2015, almost all member states have evaluated the current foodborne disease surveillance and response capacity and identified priority actions. With WHO support, in 2018 member states undertook a multi-country simulation exercise to test food-borne disease outbreak coordination and communication. Food-borne diseases are an increasingly acute risk, especially given the transit and global processes on which food production and consumption depend, ”she said.

A new framework for action on food security was recently adopted for the creation of standards and cohesion countries under the 2014 to 2018 strategy on food security.

Three points of focus
Singh identified three priority areas, including strengthening governance and regulations related to food security.

“By ensuring that food safety legislation and standards are regularly reviewed and updated, national authorities can better identify and address gaps and emerging risks, while linking national requirements and standards with international requirements Can. “

He said countries were needed to avoid duplication and to define and ensure responsibilities well. Although most countries have harmonized national standards with Codex standards, many gaps remain, such as the definition of private sector responsibilities and the quality and use of information gathered for risk assessment.

Singh said that the second food-borne disease is increasing surveillance and emergency preparedness.

Thanks to the 2014 to 2018 strategy, each member state has established incident-based surveillance, while some have indicator-based monitoring.

“As countries accelerate their efforts, they have a lot of potential to strengthen the provision of reliable epidemiological analysis, especially to identify the source of outbreaks. To do this, access to laboratory resources should be increased, and the investigative capability of key focal points should be enhanced, ”said Singh.

The last area was improving communication with a focus on emergency response using tools such as the International Food Safety Authority Network (INFOSAN).

Singh said that all the members are participating in the state forum, some are implementing it at the sub-national level.

“Nevertheless, strengthening of more coordination mechanisms between the Centers for National Information and the International Health Regulations, for which regional simulation exercises – similar to those carried out in 2018 – will be an important capacity-building measure.”

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Author: Usama Younus

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