MOH Publications
Press Release on the World Health Day 2015, Marked under the Theme: ‘How Safe Is Your Food?’
Unsafe food is cited as the reason behind the death of an estimated 2 million people annually, most of whom are children. Food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances is reckoned the cause of more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhea to cancers.
 
For this reason the World Health Organization (WHO) encourages the efforts exerted on the World Health Day on April 7th, 2015, marked under the theme: “How Safe Is Your Food?” It aims at enhancing safety systems in all countries and among them, and improving food safety from farm to plate (and all stages in between), as well as prevention, detection and response to food-borne diseases and outbreaks, in line with the Codex Alimentarius. That is to be added to drawing countries’ attention to food safety emergencies through an international information network.
 
The MOH's Health Center for Media and Health Awareness, in its report on this occasion, indicated that food-borne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade. Food supply chains are now crossing through multiple national borders and good collaboration between governments, producers and consumers helps ensure food safety. Unsafe food poses threats to the global health, endangering everyone. Infants, young children, the elderly and those with an underlying illness are particularly vulnerable.  
 
Food-borne and water-borne diarrheal diseases kill an estimated 2 million people annually; most of them are children, particularly in the developing countries. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of diarrhea and malnutrition, threatening the nutritional status of those at risk. And wherever food supplies are insecure, people tend to shift to less healthy diets and consume more unsafe foods in which chemical, microbiological and other hazards pose health risks.  
 
According to the report, food-borne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water. Food-borne pathogens can cause severe diarrhea or debilitating infections including meningitis. Chemical contamination can lead to acute poisoning or long-term diseases, such as cancer. Food-borne diseases may lead to long-lasting disability and death. Examples of unsafe food include uncooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with feces, and raw shellfish containing marine bio toxins.
 
It added that everyone contributes to the achievement of food safety. Also, policy-makers can maintain adequate food systems and infrastructures (for instance, laboratories) to respond to and manage food safety risks along with the entire food chain, including during emergencies; foster multi-sectorial among public health, animal health, agriculture and other sectors for better communication and joint action, integrate food safety into broader food policies and programs (e.g. nutrition and food security), think globally and act locally to ensure the foods produce domestically be safe internationally.
 
Food handlers and consumers can learn about the food they use (read labels on food package, make an informed choice, and become familiar with common food hazards), handle and prepare food safely, practicing the WHO Five Keys to Safer Food at home, or when selling at restaurants or at local markets, and grow fruits and vegetables using the WHO Five Keys to Growing Safer Fruits and Vegetables to decrease microbial contamination.
 
On his part, the Director of Nutrition, Dr. Mishari Al-Dakheel, explained that the participation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia comes in the context of the keen interest it shows in food safety and realization of its significance and the vital role it plays in human life and prevention of food-borne diseases. He added that the failure to prevent such diseases, in addition to malnutrition and other pathogens may lead to adverse consequences such as renal failure, neurological disorders, paralysis and death. Additionally, it increases economic burden due to spending on the primary health care and reducing wasted food as a result of contamination or damage, where food producers suffer economic loses as a result of withdrawing their products from the markets and loss of consumers' confidence in them.       
   
He pointed out that some studies indicate an increase in the proportion of diseases associated with the unhealthy food pattern and habits. “Looking into causes of most of these diseases,” he said, “we find that they are diverse; however they have a joint side of changing the lifestyle amid a technological advancement which enhances lack of movement exercise.”
 
Dr. Al-Dakheel stressed that such indicators reflect health, psychological and economic risks affecting the role we all have to play. And if not accompanied with a proper planning and clear vision, the individuals shall be subject to more deaths and complications like strokes, heart attacks and renal failure. Therefore, the issue of boosting the food safety awareness for members of society is an urgent requirement in light of the rapid changes in the modern technologies relating to manufacturing and packaging many types of foods, and appearance of fears and doubts relating to the safety of food for human consumption at all stages of production, manufacturing, storage, distribution and preparation, and how they pose threats to health. That is to be added to the individual right for education, awareness, acquirement of skills, and increasing their capability of controlling the safety of food and the right of the individual, before buying the food, to choose while being acquainted with the content of food such as: proportion of salts, fat and sugars, in addition to avoiding getting manipulated or cheated on by food producers and companies. The main basis of education and awareness is to help peoples to improve their behaviors in order to preserve their health. It should be noted that the Islamic teachings are reckoned the greatest reference in this regard; the Holy Quran and the Sunnah are replete with instances of health-fostering teachings.  To mention just one instance, Allah says: "And eat and drink but waste not by extravagance" (Al-Araf: 31).          
 
 
 
 
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