Apr 072015
 

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World Health Day is a global health awareness day celebrated every year on 7 April, under the sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO). In 1948, the WHO held the First World Health Assembly. The Assembly decided to celebrate 7 April of each year, with effect from 1950, as the World Health Day. World Health Day is held to mark WHO’s founding, and is seen as an opportunity by the organization to draw worldwide attention to a subject of major importance to global health each year. The WHO organizes international, regional and local events on the Day related to a particular theme. Resources provided continue beyond 7 April. World Health Day is acknowledged by various governments and non-governmental organizations with interests in public health issues, who also organize activities and highlight their support in media reports, such as through press releases issued in recent years by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Global Health Council. World Health Day is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by WHO, along with World Tuberculosis Day, World Immunization Week, World Malaria Day, World No Tobacco Day, World Blood Donor Day, World Hepatitis Day, and World AIDS Day.

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The WHO is promoting improvement of food safety as part of the 2015 World Health Day campaign. Unsafe food — food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances — is responsible for more than 200 diseases, and is linked to the deaths of 2 million people annually, mostly children. Changes in food production, distribution and consumption; changes to the environment; new and emerging pathogens; and antimicrobial resistance all pose challenges to food safety systems.

The WHO is working with countries and partners to strengthen efforts to prevent, detect and respond to foodborne disease outbreaks in line with the Codex Alimentarius. The organization believes food safety is a shared responsibility — from farmers and manufacturers to vendors and consumers — and is raising awareness about the importance of the part everyone can play in ensuring that the food on our plates is safe to eat. Such awareness includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards. The tracks within this line of thought are safety between industry and the market and then between the market and the consumer. In considering industry to market practices, food safety considerations involve the origins of food –including practices relating to food labeling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticide residues, as well as policies on biotechnology and food and guidelines for the management of governmental import and export inspection and certification systems for foods. In considering market to consumer practice the general thought is that food ought to be safe in the market, of course, and care should be taken to maintain high standards for delivery or preparation for the consumer.

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Food can transmit disease from person to person as well as serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. In developed countries there are intricate standards for food preparation, whereas in lesser developed countries the main issue is simply the availability of adequate safe water, which is usually a critical concern. In theory, food poisoning is 100% preventable. The five key principles of food hygiene, according to WHO, are:

Prevent contaminating food with pathogens spreading from people, pets, and pests.

Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contaminating the cooked foods.

Cook foods for the appropriate length of time and at the appropriate temperature to kill pathogens.

Store food at the proper temperature.

Use safe water and raw materials.

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A 2003 World Health Organization report concluded that about 30% of reported food poisoning outbreaks in the WHO European Region occur in private homes. According to the WHO and CDC, in the USA alone, annually, there are 76 million cases of foodborne illness leading to 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths. Also in 2003, the WHO and FAO published the Codex Alimentarius which serves as a guideline to food safety. However, according to Unit 04 – Communication of Health & Consumers Directorate-General of the European Commission (SANCO): “The Codex, while being recommendations for voluntary application by members, Codex standards serve in many cases as a basis for national legislation. The reference made to Codex food safety standards in the World Trade Organizations’ Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS Agreement) means that Codex has far reaching implications for resolving trade disputes. WTO members that wish to apply stricter food safety measures than those set by Codex may be required to justify these measures scientifically.” There remain many conflicts between the food industry, concerned with keeping production costs low, and food inspectors trying to ensure that food in the market is safe to eat.

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As a global traveler I am always concerned about food safety, and making sure I have a safe water supply. I do the obvious things such as washing all market fruits and vegetables, keeping my hands clean when preparing food, eating organic foods, and using a clean water supply. But it is not as simple as it sounds. Organic foods are not usually labeled globally, and the standards vary enormously. Certain practices, such as using bottled water, are effective in the short run but not sustainable in the long run.

I’m in the habit of eating salads when I can, building in lots of variety and creativity. Here’s a set from a dinner I had with my adopted brother, Rodrigo. This was in Buenos Aires, all the salads made from local ingredients in season (which is the norm).

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First five. Help yourself.

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Endive, chicory, and roquette with extra virgin olive oil.

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Halibut, squid, and sea legs with lemon and ginger.

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Cabbage and capers in vinegar.

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Pasta with tomato, green pepper, and oregano with olive oil.

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Eggs, potatoes, and ham in mayonnaise.

 

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A full plate.

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Sixth for dessert — strawberries and peaches on a bed of whipped cream and mashed bananas.