3 Things We Learned about Food Safety across 3 Continents: World Health Day 2015

It’s been said that food is the universal language. We all eat it, cook it, prepare it, and want it to be safe-no matter our country of origin. Here in the United States, families work hard every day (in collaboration with regulatory agencies and food manufacturers) to keep our food supply safe. The same goes for the rest of the world. Though the food safety system may not look the same in every country, there are many people all over the globe who are speaking the universal language of food safety. In celebration of World Health Day, we talked to food safety experts in China, South Africa, and the US about their take on food safety. Here are 3 things we learned:

  • washing-your-hands-food-safetyEducate yourself: Owen Frisby, Executive Director of the South African Association for Food Science and Technology, captured a key common thread in food safety around the world: training and education. No matter what food safety issues emerge, food safety is everybody’s job. The biggest challenge is getting all of us on the same page, whether it’s confusion about whether you should wash your chicken (under no circumstances!) or uncertainty about when leftovers have gone bad (pitch them within 3-4 days). Make sure you know how to keep your family food safe, and don’t be afraid to spread the word!
  • Know your environment: Dr. Junshi Chen of the China Food Information Center (CFIC) reminded us that some food safety issues exist everywhere, like food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella, Toxoplasma, Listeria, and norovirus. Other issues may be location specific. Dr. Chen highlighted food fraud as an issue in China, where some food may be adulterated. When you travel, it’s important to learn about and keep unique food safety issues in mind.
  • Start with small changes: It can be hard to change your routine in food preparation (and even harder to convince someone else to!) Starting with small changes can make a big difference. Tony Flood, Senior Food Safety Director at the International Food Information Council (IFIC), pointed out that only 1 out of 3 of Americans say they use a food thermometer to check the doneness of meat and poultry.  There’s always room for improvement when it comes to handling food at home.

Dr. Robert E. Brackett, Ph.D, of the Institute for Food Safety and Health (IFSH) at the Illinois Institute of Technology brought us one of the most important messages to remember for all of us around the world: “Consumers have more control over the safety of the foods they eat than they know.” We all have the power to improve our food safety, whether we’re in Africa, Asia, or here in the US. Don’t put it off- use World Health Day to learn how to keep your family safe.