Farmers in Kyrgyzstan
As part of community-based nutrition education sessions, beneficiaries of FAO's Productive Social Contract / Cash+ pilot project learn how to diversify their diet with locally available foods. ©FAO/Karina Levina


There is no food security without food safety. In a world where the food supply chain has become more complex, any adverse food safety incident may have global negative effects on public health, trade and the economy. The global burden of foodborne diseases is considerable and affects individuals of all ages, in particular children under 5 years of age, and persons living in low-income regions of the world.

Today, the Codex Alimentarius Commission of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization plays a leading role in setting international food standards to protect the health of consumers and in ensuring fair practices in the food trade. The Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization also play important roles in capacity-building for countries to implement food safety systems.

The United Nations believes that improving food safety contributes positively to trade, employment and poverty alleviation.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission at its 39th session, held in 2016, unanimously agreed to promote a proposal to proclaim a World Food Safety Day, on a permanent basis, within the framework of the United Nations.

The 40th Session of the FAO Conference in July 2017 adopted a resolution in support of a World Food Safety Day and the World Health Organization expressed its support in December 2017.

In December 2018, cognizant of the urgent need to raise awareness at all levels and to promote and facilitate actions for global food safety, the General Assembly decided to designate 7 June as World Food Safety Day.

On 13 February 2019 the participants of the First FAO/WHO/AU International Conference on Food Safety in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, highlighted the integral role of food safety in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They also noted the ongoing changes in climate and in global food production and supply systems and the need to empower the consumer through improved and evidence-based health and nutrition information and education.

Food Safety and the United Nations

Keeping food safe is a complex process that starts on the farm and ends with the consumer. All stages of the food chain, from production, harvest and storage to preparation and consumption, must be considered. The Food and Agriculture Organization of United Nations (FAO) is the only international organization overseeing food safety along all aspects of the food chain.

Through a longstanding partnership, FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) support global food safety and protect consumers’ health. FAO generally addresses food safety issues along the food chain during production and processing, while WHO typically oversees relationships with the public health sector. Safeguarding food, so that it is safe to eat doesn’t stop with its purchase, though. At home, consumers have a part to play in making sure that what they eat remains safe.


Facts and Figures

  • Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health.
  • Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases — ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.
  • An estimated 600 million — almost 1 in 10 people in the world — fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420,000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years.
  • Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125,000 deaths every year.
  • Diarrhoeal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230,000 deaths every year.
  • Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick.
  • Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade.
  • Food supply chains now cross multiple national borders. Good collaboration between governments, producers and consumers helps ensure food safety.