Green Groups Reiterate "Food Safety" as World Commemorates Consumer Rights Day

In celebration of World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) on 15 March, environmental groups Consumer Rights for Safe Food and the EcoWaste Coalition echoed the global call to keep food safe and healthy for everyone.

“We join the world in the celebration of WCRD by resounding its 2015 theme, ‘Healthy Diets’, through reiterating our call to the government, the private sector, and even the general public to join hands in ensuring that food, the most basic of necessities, are protected from hazardous substances, genetically modified organisms, unsafe handling, and manipulation,” Rene Pineda, Vice-President, Consumer Rights for Safe Food.

Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, added that
“a basic principle in keeping our diets healthy is by keeping it safe – safe even from too much processing and additives, such as high sugars and unhealthy fats, to give a concrete example.”

Quoting from the World Heart Federation, Lucero said that unhealthy diets are those “…high in sugars, saturated and trans-fats, low fibre foods and high-sugar drinks [which] contribute to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and other health problems.”

The groups summarized their stance on food safety by maintaining that, to keep food safe, it should be free from the following:
-          food- and water-borne illness-carrying organisms
-          unsanitary, impure, and unhealthy preparation and over-processing of food
-          chemical contamination either as added ingredient in the food product itself or as a result of contamination from leached substances from packaging
-          genetic modification
-          misbranding of food and food products

They  pointed out that, globally, efforts by the consumer rights movement, headed by Consumers International, the WCRD organizer, are increasing to push the World Health Organisation (WHO) toward the development of a global treaty on consumer rights to healthy and safe food that would:
-          Reduce very high levels of fat, salt and sugar in everyday foods
-          Reduce the marketing of junk food to children
-          Provide clear nutrition labelling to help consumers choose a healthy diet
-          Improve the standards of food served in public institutions such as schools and hospitals

Locally, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) signed recently the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Food Safety Act of 2013 or Republic Act 10611 with the aim of ensuring food safety from source to the consumers’ tables.

“This signing of the Food Safety Act IRR by both the DOH and the DA is highly commendable and extremely necessary in the face of global and local unhealthy dietary trends and must see its realization through immediate genuine implementation of the law,” the groups said.

According to Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin “The IRR aims to protect the consumer from food-borne and water-borne illnesses and unsanitary, unwholesome, misbranded or adulterated foods; enhance industry and consumer confidence in the food regulatory system; and achieve economic growth and development by promoting fair trade practices and sound regulatory foundation for domestic and international trade.”

Former US President John F. Kennedy, in his historic address on 15 March 1962 outlining his vision of consumer rights before the Congress, explained that “consumers… include us all.”