WHO expert calls for commitments from leaders at food safety conferenceFebruary 12, 2019
A WHO food safety expert is hoping for “clear commitments” at the first International Conference on Food Safety, which begins today.
Angelika Tritscher, a World Health Organization (WHO) food safety expert in the department of food safety and zoonoses, spoke with Food Safety News ahead of the event, which is organized by WHO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the African Union.
“What we are hoping for is a commitment. We have ministers attending from around 25 countries, if half of them make clear commitments in public that they can be bound by then you can work with that to help countries or regions move the agenda forward at national level. Food safety is not something out there alone by itself it needs to be integrated in food production in general,” said Tritscher, who is attending the meeting.
The conference will bring together ministers of health and agriculture, scientific experts, partner agencies and representatives of consumers, food producers and distributors. At the conclusion, a political statement advocating for increased and better coordinated collaboration and support to improve food safety globally will be made.
A toxicologist and food scientist by training, Tritscher is responsible for a unit called risk assessment and management, which evaluates food related health risks and see how they can be managed.
As one of the co-organizers, WHO invited experts to speak at the conference today and tomorrow in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, aimed at decision makers and heads of food agencies to put food safety more in the center of discussions.
Speakers include Arie Havelaar, professor at the University of Florida; Howard-Yana Shapiro, chief agricultural officer at Mars Inc. USA; Steven Jaffee, lead agricultural economist at World Bank Group; Mark Booth, CEO of Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ); and Barbara Gallani from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
Tritscher said there is good awareness on nutrition, food security, and sustainable food production but the important element of food safety within it all is never highlighted enough.
“Food safety falls under the responsibility of the agriculture ministry in some countries, in others it is under health, others have standalone agencies. For big diseases it is very clear it is all under the umbrella and responsibility of the ministry of health but for food safety it is not clear,” she said.
“The participants we have at the meeting are minister or vice-minister level from health or agriculture ministries from several countries but we also have a panel where you have heads of food agencies. What is really important is the health aspects and what the burden of foodborne disease means in health and economic costs and impact on development.”
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