Food-borne diseases costing India almost USD 15 billion annually: Vardhan

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New Delhi, Jun 7 (PTI) As food chains become longer, complex and globalised, contamination of food leading to food-borne diseases is a growing concern, costing India almost USD 15 billion annually, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Monday.

He said this while virtually attending the World Food Safety Day celebrations organised by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), a statement issued by the health ministry said.

The day is celebrated worldwide to draw attention to the fact that food is not only an agricultural or trade commodity, but is also a public health issue.

At the outset, the minister noted that the call to action for all key stakeholders on this year's World Food Safety Day is to ensure that the food we eat is safe and nutritious.

'Food safety must be integrated along the entire food chain, from farm to table, with the three sectors -- government, industry and consumers -- with all the three sharing equal responsibility. It is also necessary that food safety forms an essential component of health-based nutrition policies and nutrition education.

'We aim to inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage food-borne risk and by doing so, we shall be contributing towards food security, human health, economic prosperity, market access and sustainable development,' Vardhan was quoted as saying in the statement.

To bring home the point that food safety is one of the determinants of a sound and cohesive healthcare system in a country, he stated: 'As food chains become longer, complex and globalised, contamination of food leading to food-borne diseases is a growing concern, costing us almost 15 billion USD annually. By 2030, food-borne diseases are expected to rise to 150 to 177 million annually.” With the resurgence of COVID-19 across the globe, there is a sharpened focus on safe food, nutrition, immunity and sustainability.

In this regard, Vardhan said it has become all the more important to focus on preventive healthcare as it minimises the burden of diseases and helps in tackling the rising burden of diet-related diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and malnutrition.

Improving food safety requires sustained investments in several areas, from stronger regulations to better laboratories for the testing of food, more stringent enforcement of the regulations at the ground level and surveillance along with training and capacity-building of food handlers.

The minister highlighted that the government's flagship initiative 'Eat Right India' needs to be turned into a national movement in order to transform the food ecosystem of the country by ensuring safe, healthy and sustainable food for everyone, the statement said.

'This year's World Food Safety Day theme -- 'Safe Food for a healthy tomorrow' -- highlights that the production and consumption of safe food has immediate and long-term benefits for people, the planet and the economy,' he stated.

The minister ended his speech by inviting everyone present to take a pledge to share the responsibility of food safety and address the issues associated with it holistically. PTI PLB RC

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