April 7 is the day set aside to celebrate World Health Day. This year, the celebration was held under the theme, ‘Food Safety: from farm to plate, make food safe.’ I think the theme is very fitting. The day focuses on demonstrating the importance of food safety along the whole length of the food chain in a globalised world, from production and transport, to preparation and consumption. Food is everybody’s business. New data on the harm caused by food-borne illnesses underscore the global threats posed by unsafe foods, and the need for coordinated, cross-border action across the entire food supply chain. The World Health Organisation is at the forefront of this as it highlights the challenges and opportunities associated with food safety. According to the WHO, over 200 diseases are caused by unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, chemical substances. It has also estimated that over two million die every year from contaminated food or drinking water.
It true that great majority of people will experience a food or water borne disease at some point in their lives. This highlights the importance of making sure the food we eat is not contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria, parasites, viruses, toxins and chemicals.
Over the past half century, the process by which food gets from the farm to the plate has changed drastically. Food contamination that occurs in one place may affect the health of consumers living on the other side of the planet. This means that everyone along the production chain, from producer to consumer, must observe safe food handling practices. Safe food supplies support national economies, trade and tourism, contribute to food and nutrition security, and underpin sustainable development.
Meanwhile, urbanisation and changes in consumer habits, including travel, have increased the number of people buying and eating food prepared in public places. Globalisation has triggered growing consumer demand for a wider variety of foods, resulting in an increasingly complex and longer global food chain.
As the world’s population grows, the intensification and industrialisation of agriculture and animal production to meet increasing demand for food creates both opportunities and challenges for food safety. Climate change is also predicted to impact food safety, where temperature changes modify food safety risks associated with food production, storage and distribution.
These challenges put greater responsibility on food producers and handlers to ensure food safety. Local incidents can quickly evolve into international emergencies due to the speed and range of product distribution. Serious food-borne disease outbreaks have occurred on every continent in the past decade, often amplified by globalised trade. Therefore as we celebrate World Health Day, it is important for us all to be aware of the responsibility that lies ahead in promoting the health status of our people.
Kudos, Gambian media
Allow me to commend the indispensable role of the media in the proper functioning of a democracy in The Gambia. Talking about the media’s functions within democratic contexts, often focuses on their role in enabling full public awareness in human rights, good governance and observance of rule of law. It does this by reporting on the developments, by educating the public on how to exercise their democratic rights, by providing a platform for the public to communicate their concerns, opinions and needs and by providing information that, as far as possible helps to make them better understand issues around them. I must say that Gambian media are still at a developmental, disadvantaged stage and faces a lot of challenges both in terms of resources and otherwise. However the fact that they are determined to fully develop into mature media deserves commendation. There are those who take the work of the media for granted but one thing remains certain is that a society is a dead society if it should do away with the media.
Abu Abdallah Ceesay,