Food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins, or chemicals causes more than 600 million people to fall ill and 420,000 to die worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Unsafe food costs low- and middle-income economies about $95 billion in lost productivity each year, it said in a statement, as U.N. agencies and the African Union met in Ethiopia for the first international conference on food safety.
Yet even though food safety is a major global concern, it “has not received political attention,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general, WHO.
Women and children, people affected by conflict, and migrants are especially vulnerable to unsafe food, according to the WHO.
Climate change and the globalization of food production, coupled with a rising world population and increasing urbanization, pose new challenges to food safety, the WHO said.