Global meeting to focus on measures for improving food safety

Jan 25, 2002 (CIDRAP News) – Food safety regulators and specialists from around the world will meet in Marrakech, Morocco, Jan 28 through 30 in what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls the first global meeting dealing with methods to ensure food safety.

The meeting was organized by WHO and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in response to recent increases in foodborne diseases, according to a WHO press release. WHO estimates that more than 2 million people die of foodborne diseases annually and that up to a third of the population contracts a foodborne disease each year.

Topics to be discussed at the meeting include:

  • Handling of emergencies such as "mad cow disease" and dioxin-contaminated feed
  • The risks and benefits of genetic engineering, food irradiation, and other food-related technology
  • The food safety needs of developing countries
  • Preparing for new threats such as drug-resistant Salmonella
  • Designing national food safety strategies

About 300 food safety experts from 120 nations will attend the meeting, WHO said. WHO and FAO set up the meeting at the request of their member countries and the G-8 countries. Senior officials from several countries will present 12 key papers describing foodborne disease incidents, solutions implemented, recommendations, and needs," WHO reported. In addition, other participants will present at least 50 reports describing national experiences with food safety.

WHO attributes the increase in foodborne diseases to a number of factors, including production trends, eating habits, urbanization, intensive animal farming, increased trade, and differing consumer preferences. Because some of the threats to food safety cross national boundaries, nations need to work together more closely to develop "high performance and harmonized food safety systems that will result in uniform emergency responses to such threats," WHO officials said.

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