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BANGKOK, THAILAND -- Each year, unsafe food makes at least two billion people ill worldwide, or about one third of the global population. Simple prevention techniques could significantly reduce this burden of disease, which can cause serious illness or death.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is launching its "5 Keys" strategy -- a series of five simple actions which people can undertake at home or at work while preparing and consuming food. These are: keep hands and cooking surfaces clean; separate raw and cooked food; cook food thoroughly; keep food stored at safe temperatures; and use safe water and raw ingredients.
"The burden of foodborne disease is enormous but much of this burden can be prevented through simple techniques," said Dr Jorgen Schlundt, director of WHO's Food Safety department. "The 5 Keys strategy is complemented by a manual which helps individuals to adopt good food-handling practices: they show how people around the world, no matter where and how they live, can protect themselves from foodborne illness."
WHO has produced a basic training manual to ensure that Member States can use and disseminate effectively the information contained in the "5 Keys" strategy. It is meant for food safety professionals, teachers and other interested organizations to use in training selected target groups (including food handlers and schoolchildren, for example). Field testing of "Bring Food Safety Home: How to Use the WHO 5 Keys to Safer Food" is now starting around the world. Countries where field testing will occur include Argentina, Bolivia, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua in the Americas and Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Nepal, Timor Leste in South-east Asia.
Even though the actions are applicable everywhere, WHO recognizes that the way food is prepared and the type of food which is eaten varies enormously across and within countries. The 5 Keys strategy, consequently, does not set out prescriptions, and the implementing manual is a reflection of globally validated best practice, emphasizing five main messages which Member States are encouraged to apply to local conditions.
The 5 Keys strategy will be the topic of a special side event today in Bangkok, Thailand, where WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are currently sponsoring the 2nd Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators.
"The 5 Keys are a perfect complement to other discussions occurring here in Bangkok. While the Forum has been exploring ways in which governments and other authorities can cooperate better to improve food production and distribution services, and to work better with one-another to prevent the occurrence and spread of foodborne disease outbreaks, the 5 Keys represent measures which can be taken on an individual level, and immediately, to reduce the risk of foodborne disease," added Schlundt.
WHO regions are also being encouraged to produce more specific versions of the 5 Keys strategy and the manual. The five main messages are being translated into over 25 languages. While the global manual looks at the core messages, for example WHO's regional office for South-East Asia, based in New Delhi, India, has produced a version which emphasizes the best way to adapt these messages to the local situation, where many people cannot afford the detergents and soaps generally recommended in preventing the spread of foodborne diseases.
This South-East Asia* version of the manual will also be available in Bangkok.