Over 200 diseases from risky food

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ENSURING food safety requires the commitment of all relevant sectors across the food supply chain, said the health minister yesterday.

In his message to mark World Health Day, Yang Berhormat Pehin Orang Kaya Johan Pahlawan Dato Seri Setia Hj Adanan Begawan Pehin Siraja Khatib Dato Seri Setia Hj Mohd Yusof explained that issues related to food safety in Brunei is not the sole responsibility of the government.

To further boost the control of food quality and safety, he pointed out that a multi-sector commitment is required from producers, importers, suppliers to sellers of food.

He said the Ministry of Health (MoH), in collaboration with relevant government agencies, constantly monitor food safety and hygiene status in the country to ensure and protect public health in accordance with existing laws, best practices and international standards.

The minister warned that appropriate action would be taken against any party who would fail to comply with health regulations.

“In the meantime, MoH would like to advise and recommend to people to be careful and sensitive about the preparation and selection of food, especially in terms of hygiene, food safety and quality, as we are together responsible in avoiding any risks and injury to health,” he said.

This year’s World Health Day, observed annually on April 7, highlighted the importance of handling, preparation and selection of food to render it safe for consumption.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a news release on its website, unsafe food can contain harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, which can cause more than 200 diseases ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.

The organisation listed examples of unsafe food such as undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.

“Food production has been industrialised and its trade and distribution has been globalised. These changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals,” said WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan.

She added that a local food safety problem could rapidly turn into an international emergency with complex investigation of an outbreak of foodborne disease involving multiple countries.

Initial findings issued by WHO’s Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) last week revealed there were an estimated 582 million cases of 22 different foodborne enteric diseases and 351,000 associated deaths.

The research showed Southeast Asia recorded the highest disease burden for enteric foodborne disease behind Africa, while over 40 per cent of those affected by the disease were children.

As part of its global strategy to decrease the burden of foodborne diseases, the organisation created a global health message titled “The Five Keys to Safer Food”.

The message, which was aimed to train all types of food handlers including consumers, explained the importance of washing hands; separating raw and cooked food; cooking food thoroughly; keeping food at safe temperatures; and using safe water and materials.

The Brunei Times