Global Networks Make Food Safer
By Dana Pitts, Associated Director for Communication and Heena Joshi, Program Coordinator for Global Foodborne Infections Network
We all deserve healthy, safe foods, yet many countries lack basic resources to identify, track, and stop the spread of foodborne illnesses.
Once food becomes contaminated, germs and infection can spread rapidly through families or between continents. Acting globally means sharing solutions and resources throughout the world to make food safer.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) collaboration with the World Health Organization, called the Global Foodborne Infections Network (GFN) and CDC’s PulseNet International are worldwide organizations that help countries to strengthen their ability to detect and control diseases.
Training + country perspectives = better collaborations to prevent foodborne disease
In 2000, after a WHO survey showed that many countries lacked basic laboratory and public health resources to detect foodborne diseases, WHO, CDC and partners developed the Global Foodborne Infections Network.
This network integrates food, public health, and veterinary expertise to provide training in how to detect infections caused by contaminated food. Today, 1,600 members from national laboratories and other institutes in 180 countries make up this network.
CDC laboratory experts and the Global Disease Detection Center in China are tailoring proven approaches to help the Chinese Ministry of Health, PulseNet China (member of PulseNet International), and other partners find the cause of foodborne disease outbreaks.
This collaboration has helped equip Chinese microbiologists and epidemiologists with laboratory tools and methods for foodborne disease detection. The impact has been clear: more data and better detection of cases and clusters are possible through improved laboratory detection. This essential step makes food safer—whether consumed in China, exported to the United States, or shipped worldwide.
What about consumers?
Foodborne diseases can happen anywhere foods are improperly prepared or mishandled—including homes, restaurants, or street vendors. According to WHO, there is a lack of awareness in developing countries that food can make an individual sick if it is not properly handled, prepared and stored.
Today, there are more food choices than ever before. Consumers face many complex options. What foods do I choose? How do I cook and store foods? They may also lack knowledge about which foods, ingredients, and practices pose the greatest risk for foodborne disease. Consumers need basic knowledge to minimize their risks of foodborne illness and make the best choices.4
Keys to Safer Food
Consumers play a key role in protecting themselves. WHO recommends that consumers should always follow safe food-handling guidelines:
- Keep food clean;
- Separate raw and cooked foods;
- Cook food thoroughly;
- Keep food at safe temperatures; and
- Use safe water and raw materials.5
Learn more about how the World Health Organization is working on behalf of consumers around the world. If you have other food safety questions, please feel free to contact the Food Safety Hotline (1-888-674-6854 toll-free) or online at AskKaren.gov (English or Spanish).
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