Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine says food safety is one of the most important factors regarding health that should never be overlooked.

Vandine made the remark on June 7 as Cambodia celebrated World Food Safety Day, observed this year under the theme “Safer food, better health”.

“Food safety is one of the most important factors in maintaining the good health of the general populace,” she said, calling on people to practise food safety at all times and avoid expired foods.

“The failure to practise food hygiene and maintain food standards can have a harmful impact on health, and even lead to loss of life.”

People should practise good hygiene by washing their hands before preparing, serving and eating meals, with vegetables, fish, meat and all other ingredients properly cleaned, she added.

The UN General Assembly established World Food Safety Day in 2018 to raise public awareness.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) jointly facilitate the observance of World Food Safety Day, in collaboration with member states and other stakeholders.

WHO estimates that 220 million children develop diarrhoea each year, while 96,000 die from problems related to food safety. The international public health agency says unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of diarrhoea and malnutrition that threatens the nutritional status of the most vulnerable.

According to the ministry’s Department of Drugs and Food, between 2015 and 2021, a total of 4,699 food poisoning cases were recorded in Cambodia, 119 of which proved fatal.

Sok Silo, secretary-general of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD), said World Food Safety Day is celebrated every June 7 to draw attention and inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne risks.

Such action contributes to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agricultural production, market access, tourism and sustainable development, he added.

“This year’s theme, ‘Safer food, better health’, will focus on the ways in which safer food can improve health and wellbeing, not only the physical health of humans, but also that of animals and the environment.

“Food safety is fundamental to healthy and sustainable food systems, and it is fundamental to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

“‘Food safety is everyone’s business’ is the slogan for World Food Safety Day this year. It is a reminder that all play a role in keeping food safe. We need to prioritise food safety throughout the whole supply chain, from farm to table,” Silo said.

To mark World Food Safety Day 2022, the UN World Food Programme (WEP) issued “Safe Food and Sanitation for Healthier School Meals: How a Rural Primary School Embraces Food Safety Standards”.

Im Lone, a cook at Samrong Primary School in Kampong Thom province, was quoted in the statement as saying that she was very happy with new cooking facilities made possible by a WEP school meal programme in Cambodia.

“These new facilities really help me make sure everything that goes out of this kitchen is clean. The old kitchen wasn’t very well designed, so dust got into everything. It was hard to stay on top of the sanitary conditions before, but it has all changed now,” she said.

After 10 years working for the school meal programme, Lone said she has come to be mindful of the importance of food safety in promoting health and nutrition among students.

“Freshness and safety are both very important. They help students stay healthy and avoid preventable diseases,” she said.

Cambodia has been actively promoting food safety. The food safety draft law – with 11 chapters and 43 articles – was approved by the Senate on May 18 and is currently pending promulgation by King Norodom Sihamoni.