16 October - World Food Day
More and more often the dietary choice of European consumers inclines towards healthier and more nutritious foods produced according to ethical, environmentally benign methods. This quality is what the Council of Europe endeavours to guarantee, through numerous standard-setting and co-operative activities.
The Organisation has been developing international standards for materials intended to come into contact with foodstuffs since the early 1960s. It has also carried out studies on emulsifying agents, stabilisers, colouring matter and preservatives. And it was the first, over twenty years ago, to draw up a list of flavouring substances acceptable in food.
Until recently, European policy on food safety was founded principally on surveillance of the microbiological and chemical quality of foods. Today it is plain that diet is essential to health. The Council of Europe, for instance, organised in conjunction with the World Health Organisation a forum on eating at school in 2003 and contributed to the WHO Ministerial Conference entitled “Counteracting obesity” in 2006.
Apart from food security and food hygiene, producers and farmers are also expected to observe legal requirements regarding environment and animal well-being. The animal protection conventions prepared by the Council of Europe were the first international instruments laying down ethical principles for the transport, breeding and slaughtering of animals. They served as a basis for, and continue to influence, the whole of the relevant legislation in Europe.
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In 2009, International Food Day will focus on ways of achieving food security in times of crisis. The number of malnourished people increased by approximately 105 million in 2009, so that at present 1.02 billion are suffering from hunger worldwide, meaning that undernourishment afflicts almost one-sixth of mankind. The World Summit on Food Security proposed by FAO in November 2009 could be crucial for eradicating hunger.