Viet Nam and WHO work together to make food safe from farm to plate



Ha Noi, 7 April 2015 - Diseases caused by unsafe food claim an estimated 2 million lives globally each year. The World Health Organization (WHO) in Viet Nam marks World Health Day (7 April) this year by applauding the government for its commitment to improve food safety in Viet Nam. At the same time it urges all consumers and producers to observe food safety to save lives and improve people’s health.


"Food safety assurance is the responsibility of all consumers and producers along the food chain from farm to plate," says WHO Acting Representative Jeffery Kobza. "Food producers, manufacturers and traders in Viet Nam need to take responsibility for the safety of food they produce and trade while consumers must take preventive measures and follow good food safety practices."


Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhoea to chronic diseases such as cancers. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting children and older people. Examples of unsafe food include under-cooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.


Food safety in Viet Nam


According to the Viet Nam Food Administration, 194 food poisoning outbreaks were reported in Viet Nam in 2014, affecting over 5000 people, of whom 80% were hospitalized and 43 died. Compared to 2013, less people were affected or hospitalised by food poisoning outbreaks.


Ensuring food safety in Viet Nam is a challenge due to rapid economic development. Diseases caused by unsafe food impede socioeconomic development, burden health-care systems, and harm national economies, tourism and trade. Food supply chains increasingly cross national borders, as such, collaboration between Viet Nam and its neighbouring countries is essential to ensure food safety.


Lost export opportunities, business closure and loss of reputation have severe economic impact. In addition, the hidden cost to Viet Nam’s economy due to absenteeism, reduced productive capacity and reduced income of the poorest population can be immense.


In recent years Viet Nam has made substantial progress in improving food safety. A national strategy up to 2020 provides strong direction, and the revised food safety law (adopted in 2011) redefined the roles and responsibilities of the different ministries involved in food safety, as well as limiting the number of ministries involved. The law helps to ensure the safety of food by involving all actors in the food chain continuum, from production, processing, transport to consumption. In 2014, Viet Nam also participated in a regional simulation exercise to test the country’s emergency response and notification procedures for local food safety events.


WHO’s response


WHO is working with the Viet Nam Food Administration and other key partners to promote people’s health through ensuring food safety,


The behaviour of consumers and producers along the food chain is at the heart of promoting and ensuring food safety. WHO’s Five Keys to Safer Food explain five simple actions each individual in Viet Nam should take to prevent diseases from occurring when handling food. WHO’s Five Keys to Safer Food are:


- Keep clean – wash hands properly and keep the surfaces to produce food clean;

- Separate raw and cooked foods;

- Cook food thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs;

- Keep food at safe temperatures; and

- Use safe water and raw materials when preparing food.


WHO, together with FAO, also facilitates prevention, detection and response to public health threats from unsafe food through the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) — a network for rapid exchange of information during food safety events of international concern, which was launched in 2004. Viet Nam is an active member of INFOSAN.


In addition, WHO’s efforts in supporting Viet Nam to improve disease surveillance, field epidemiology, risk assessment, risk communications, and infection prevention and control under the International Health Regulations (2005), contribute directly to the detection of, and response to, food safety events.


Towards the future, WHO aims to work with the Viet Nam Food Administration to further reduce the risks of illness and death due to food safety events by continuing to strengthen surveillance and early detection and response of any diseases, including foodborne diseases.

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