As World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year, it is important to highlight IEC various standardization activities in the domain that is the object of this year’s 2015 World Health Day: Food safety – the global view. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) it is estimated that two million deaths occur every year from contaminated food or drinking water. Many more people are victims of food poisoning every year.
Less obvious but no less essential
Many IEC Technical Committees (TCs) and Subcommittees (SCs) prepare International Standards for equipment and issues that are immediately associated with health and medical issues. These include the safety of medical equipment, acoustics or medical imagery equipment. A less noticeable but critical aspect of IEC standardization work concerning health issues is to ensure food products and water are safe from the place they are produced all the way down to the end-users.
Very diverse activities
A number of IEC TCs and SCs prepare International Standards for equipment and processes used to increase food production, to clean, sterilize, disinfect and conserve food products and water all along the food chain from the farm to the plates or glasses of consumers. In addition to existing equipment and processes essential to achieve these goals new ones are being discovered all the time and require constant standardization work.
More mouths to feed
As food production needs boosting to meet the needs of a growing global population at the most reasonable cost possible, raising production levels is essential. Providing additional and selective lighting to improve vegetable growth, increase milk yields in dairy farms or egg production in chicken farms is proving very effective. The recent introduction of LED-based lamps is opening new prospects in these areas. International Standards for lamps and related equipment are prepared by IEC TC 34.
Using chemicals to disinfect food products and utensils is effective but may present adverse side-effects for humans and the environment. These can be avoided with the use of various electrotechnical processes, such as UV radiation and ultrasonic cleaning and disinfection.
UV radiation is used for water treatment as well as to destroy epidemic bacteria such as E-coli, salmonella and germs directly on eggs, other products or on food processing equipment and plants.
IEC TC 62 develops International Standards for the safety of UV equipment used for water treatment appliances.
As for ultrasonic equipment it is present in the food industry to clean equipment and handle food products. IEC TC 87: Ultrasonics prepares International Standards for equipment and systems in the domain of ultrasonics.
From producers to consumers food products must be kept at low temperatures to prevent them from becoming unfit for human consumption or toxic. The provision of appropriate cooling and freezing equipment is essential to prevent decay and the possible proliferation of pests and diseases. In homes fridges have allowed households to keep foodstuff fresh for longer periods and to cut down instances of food poisoning.
International Standards for general and performance requirements of electrical household and similar cooling and freezing appliances are prepared by IEC SC 59M.
More IEC TCs and SCs involved in the development of International Standards that are essential for producers, distributors and consumers to ensure food products and water that reach individuals at the end of a long production and supply chain are safe to consume.