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Diseases from unsafe food spreading – WHO

17/10/11  www.philstar.com

By Mayen Jaymalin

MANILA, Philippines – Diseases caused by the consumption of unsafe food are spreading in the Western Pacific Region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday.

Dr. Shin Young-soo, WHO regional director for the Western Pacific, said more than 200 diseases are now spreading through food.

“Unsafe food causes many acute and lifelong diseases, ranging from diarrhoeal disease to various forms of cancer, with more than 200 diseases being spread through food,” he said.

WHO said the rapid and extensive globalization of food production has increased the incidence of food contamination worldwide. In the Western Pacific Region, food safety concerns include the Ebola Reston virus in pigs, excessively high levels of iodine in soy milk products, fish poisoning, hepatitis A associated with semi-dried tomatoes, pesticide residue poisonings, and chloropropanol contamination of soy sauce.

Shin noted that in New Zealand, six food-borne diseases had cost the country more than NZ$ 161 million in 2009.

“It was a proof that the economic impact of food-borne disease and food contamination is also significant,” he said.

Shin also noted that in 2008, melamine-tainted products were present in 47 countries.

Melamine, a product used to make plastics, was added to infant formula and dairy products in China to increase its apparent protein content.

To address the problem of food safety, member states of the WHO Western Pacific Region adopted a long-term strategy to ensure food safety. The Western Pacific Regional Food Safety Strategy (2011-2015) defines keyactions required to improve food control systems covering the entire food chain from farm to table. It also aims to strengthen collaboration among countries and regional partners toward increased health security through improved food safety systems.The strategy provides countries with a structure to: improve food control and coordination throughout the food chain; devise a risk-based regulatory framework; improve availability of food safety data to better guide policy and risk analysis; develop inspection services; introduce food safety training and education; and establish the capacity to detect, assess and manage food safety incidents and emergencies.

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