The World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have revealed the theme of the sixth annual World Food Safety Day (WFSD), taking place June 7, 2024—“Food Safety: Prepare for the Unexpected.”

According to WHO, one in ten people around the world are sickened by unsafe food every year, and more than 200 diseases are caused by eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemical substances.

WFSD was established in 2018 by the United Nations General Assembly, after it was suggested by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, as a way of raising food safety awareness and promoting collaboration across sectors. It is jointly facilitated by WHO and FAO.

The theme of WFSD 2024 aims to bring attention to unexpected crises that can threaten food safety, like power outages, natural disasters, foodborne illness outbreaks caused by imported products, and other situations. For WFSD 2024, WHO and FAO are asking all stakeholders along the food supply chain if they are prepared to address unexpected threats to food safety in an increasingly interconnected global food supply.

In a recently published WFSD 2024 communication toolkit, WHO outlines actions that governments, businesses, and individuals can take to prepare for food safety incidents. For example, the toolkit suggests that governments commit to developing or updating national food safety emergency response plans, strengthen national food control systems, increase surveillance and coordination capacities, and improve communication with food businesses and the public. The toolkit highlights the 2004 Codex Alimentarius text, titled, Principles and Guidelines for the Exchange of Information in Food Emergency Situations, which recommended that Member States choose official contact points to exchange information during international crises. In response, the FAO/WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) was established, which today includes food safety authorities from 189 countries who, facilitated by FAO/WHO, exchange information and execute risk management measures during multinational food safety events.

Regarding food businesses, the toolkit encourages improving food safety management systems (FSMS), sharing “lessons learned” and collaboration across businesses, and enhancing consumer communications. Meanwhile, consumers are urged to learn how to report or respond to a food safety incident, as well as how to react to unexpected events that threaten food safety at home.

The toolkit also offers seven key messages to help support the theme of WFSD 2024, including:

  • Preparedness is key: Governments should have strong national food safety emergency response plans and surveillance systems, and food businesses should have a management and response plan in place
  • Multisectoral collaboration ensures effective response: A coordinated approach across government agencies, national authorities, and industry helps minimize the public health impact of food safety events
  • Rapid exchange of information saves lives: Fast and accurate information-sharing across all stakeholders can help identify the nature and origin of food safety events
  • Effective communication maintains confidence in the food supply: It is important to provide accurate, timely, and open information to stakeholders, healthcare, the media, and the public
  • FSMS help protect consumers: Food producers, importers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers should have established and regularly updated FSMS
  • Decisive action of food businesses benefits everyone: Industry must be ready to implement emergency response plans and approaches, including procedures for product withdrawal and recall, and traceability systems are recommended
  • Everyone is a risk manager: Everyone, from individuals to businesses and governments, evaluates food safety risks as part of their daily choices.

The toolkit includes other resources and messages, such as links to practical guides from FAO/WHO for businesses and governments aiming to improve their food safety preparedness, social media graphics and captions, event ideas, and more. Also available is a video from FAO featuring FAO and WHO food safety experts who explain the issues being addressed by this year’s campaign.

The theme of last year’s WFSD was “Food Standards Save Lives,” for which Food Safety Magazine published an exclusive feature column written by FAO about the importance of WFSD and year-round food safety. WFSD 2022 focused on the theme “Safer Food, Better Health.” Check out Food Safety Magazine’s WFSD coverage for updates on events and resources as they become available.