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The sixth World Food Safety Day was celebrated this year under the theme: “Food safety: let's prepare for the unexpected”.

Since last Thursday, June 6, I have been taking part with other comrades from the Cameroon Bloggers Association ( ABC ), in a campaign on food safety. You can follow us via the hashtag #PNPLZER2024. The answers to your questions are in this post.

Why a day dedicated to health safety?
International Food Safety Day is jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations ( FAO ) and the World Health Organization ( WHO ). Its aim is to attract attention
and inspire action to help
prevent, detect and manage food-related risks, thus contributing to food safety, human health
, economic prosperity, agriculture,
access to markets, tourism and sustainable development. It is a day that reminds us that it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that our food is safe.

World Health Safety Day theme. C: PNPLZER (with their permission)
Because inaction in this area comes at a high price. In Africa, as everywhere else in the world, the development of human capital is based on three essential factors: the survival of children under five, their level of education and their state of health, on which their ability to learn depends, and later, to work.
However, the majority of cases of deaths due to food-borne illnesses in Africa concern children under five years old. While the costs of these diseases are largely unknown, we will fail to eliminate extreme poverty and promote shared prosperity if millions of poor and vulnerable people do not have access to healthy food. A harmful food is not a food!

The action of the zoonosis program in Cameroon
Every year, according to the WHO , one in ten people worldwide falls ill after ingesting a food that is harmful to their health. With a view to reducing the burden of diseases in Cameroon, the National Program for the Prevention and Control of Emerging and Re-emerging Zoonoses (PNPLZER ) is raising awareness about food safety. Because it is an important way to protect yourself from zoonoses. Created in 2014, and commonly referred to as the Zoonose Program , is mandated to ensure the promotion and appropriation of the “one health” concept through a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder approach in Cameroon.

We all know that food provides our body with the nutrients that are essential to keep us alive. However, when they are contaminated by pathogens, particularly of zoonotic origin, they can have disabling or even fatal effects.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 200 illnesses are due to the consumption of food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals. 

Since sight, taste and smell do not always allow consumers to realize that they have contaminated food in front of them, it is the laboratories responsible for food safety which, throughout the world , form a line of defense to prevent and stop the spread of dangerous pathogens.

Awareness visual. C: PNPLZER, with their permission.
Certain foodborne bacterial infections such as salmonellosis, an infection caused by salmonella, are considered zoonoses, that is, infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Unsafe practices on farms, improper processing of food, or contamination at the manufacturing or distribution stages are all ways that salmonella, like other pathogens, comes into contact with the foods we eat. The primary means of transmission of many zoonotic diseases is therefore food.

As for animals, they can appear healthy even though they are sick, but once transmitted to humans, the disease can manifest itself and have significant health repercussions.
These are largely avoidable provided that food safety is considered a priority throughout the food chain, from producer to consumer. In my opinion, this is the only way to be certain that the food on our plates is safe: it is definitely a collective responsibility and everyone must play their role.

A PNPLZER team raising awareness among traders and consumers about food safety at the Mfoundi market in Yaoundé. CPNPLZER (with their permission)
However, it must be recognized that there are exceptional situations where, although we have all played our part, an unforeseen event occurs that compromises food safety.
And even then, there is always something you can do to prevent illness.
Are we ready to face the unexpected?

Education for sustainable health security?
Yes, educating all the important links for sustainable health security remains an effective alternative.
Because food safety incidents can range from minor events to major international crises, whether it's a power outage at home, food poisoning at a neighborhood restaurant
, A voluntary recall of contaminated products by a manufacturer, an outbreak due to imported products, or a natural disaster.
Food safety risks cross borders, so in an increasingly interconnected global food supply, the risks posed by unsafe food can, from a local problem, quickly cause a international emergency situation.

Everyone being a risk manager at their own level, it is important to remember that everyone assesses the risks related to food safety as part of their daily choices. These choices are made by us, individuals and, collectively, by our families, our communities, our businesses and our governments.

Access to safe, open and timely information to stakeholders, including health care providers, the media and the general public, also helps maintain confidence in the food supply and prevent the outbreak of disease. Hence the crucial role of the media in this educational process.

It is therefore time to join the actions of the zoonosis program in Cameroon to further reduce the health consequences of food-borne diseases and protect consumers.

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