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United Nations Food Safety Conference

Geneva summit on food safety

by Vincent Doumeizel

Lloyd’s Register Foundation was a key participant in the first food safety conference co-organised by FAO, WHO, and WTO in Geneva this April to address the growing food safety crisis.

Hunger is on the rise; chronic food deprivation has increased to 821 million people with the number of stunted children being 150.8 million. In the meantime, obesity or overweight is a growing epidemic impacting more than 2.5 billion people, whilst food safety remains a big issue with over 600 million foodborne illnesses annually, and 420,000 dying of foodborne diseases (a quarter of them from the developed economies) and recurrent and costly recalls from the food industry.

The Geneva summit was organised to bring together ministers and representatives of national governments, senior policy makers, as well as private sector representatives, to engage in an urgent reflection on food safety challenges.

Foodborne diseases in low- and middle-income countries costs at least US$100 billion a year, with this cost exceeding US$500 million for 28 countries, (World Bank). Ongoing changes in climate, global food production and supply systems affect consumers, industry and the planet itself: food safety systems need to keep pace with these changes. The burden of unsafe food disproportionally affects vulnerable and marginalised people and poses sustainability and development challenges.

In this pivotal moment, the first food safety conference was co-organised by FAO, WHO, WTO at WTO Head Office in Geneva in order to bring together Ministers and representatives of national governments, senior policy makers as well as representatives of non-state actor groups from all regions of the world to engage in an urgent reflection on food safety challenges.

The conference hosted over 600 attendees from 100+ different countries and was introduced by the 3 respective organizations presidents with an objective to:

  • Identify key actions and strategies to address current and future challenges to food safety globally.
  • Strengthen commitment at the highest political level to scale up food safety in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Foundation highlighted the need for a private-public coalition and the necessity to leverage on the convergence of data & life science innovations to enable the food safety of tomorrow. We also stated that food from the oceans with aquaculture going offshore is to be considered as a keystone of our future food resources as currently 70% of the world is covered with ocean that contributes to less than 2% of our food. Eventually, traceable food powered by innovation (blockchain, DNA, etc.) and improved food safety education in all countries were highlighted as necessities to enable global verification in a very complex and fragmented supply chain.

The Foundation is now working with FAO and other partners to design programmes to address these issues in future.

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