According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with an estimated 600 million cases of foodborne illnesses annually, unsafe food is a threat to human health and economies, disproportionally affecting vulnerable and marginalized people, especially women and children, populations affected by conflict, and migrants. An estimated 420 000 people around the world die every year after eating contaminated food and children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year.
World Food Safety Day on 7 June aims to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks, contributing to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) jointly facilitate the observance of World Food Safety Day, in collaboration with Member States and other relevant organizations. This international day is an opportunity to strengthen efforts to ensure that the food we eat is safe, mainstream food safety in the public agenda and reduce the burden of foodborne diseases globally.
I think about it more on a personal level. It has been over 28 years since the 1993 Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak sickened several hundred – many with kidney failure – some died – and, changed the trajectory of my legal work. It was about this time in 1993 that Bri Kiner – who became the face of the litigation – was still months from discharge from the hospital – see Video
I still recall visiting her and her family in the hospital – I still remember the smell of the room and the look of a shriveled 9-year-old with a gapping wound where once were her large intestines. It was an honor to try and do justice for her – see the book Poisoned – soon to be a documentary.
I could not even begin to to list all the people around the world that have been impacted by the failures of the food safety system that I have met or represented. But, there are many that I cannot forget:
Linda Rivera – hospitalized for two years after eating Nestle Toll House Cookie Dough and developing one of the most complex E. coli infections for anyone that survived the acute phase of the infection – see also the Washington Post.
Stephanie Smith – a dancer who lost her ability to even walk because of a E. coli tainted Cargill hamburger – see Pulitzer Prize winning article in the New York Times.
Clifford Tousignant – a Korean War Purple Heart winner who died from Salmonella tainted peanut butter.
Dr. Michael Hauser – who was one of at least 33 people who died from Listeria tainted cantaloupe.
Lucas Parker – a 4-year-old who cannot walk, talk or feed himself due to the severity of his E. coli infection.
You get my point, it has impacted me deeply, but tragically impacted these people and their families. I could spend hours talking about the Listeria tragedy in South Africa – 1,000 sickened with 200 dead and three years later no justice.
These people all need our concerted efforts.
To all food safety I professionals – we have still much to do.
I will leave you with this video – this, I can never shake.