Widespread epidemics of diseases caused mainly by viruses and bacteria have been documented throughout recorded history. These diseases affected large populations causing untold suffering and death and have often altered the course of human history. Viruses and bacteria implicated in these events can be transmitted by vectors (e.g., insects and rodents), person-to-person (e.g., airborne and physical contact) and by ingestion of food and water. Today, industrialization, travel and trade has expanded the scale of epidemics to what are now known as pandemics. Although transmission via food is rarely seen as perpetuating a pandemic, in a number of instances, food has provided the critical link to animal reservoirs. Thus, the traditional role of food safety in maintaining a hygienic barrier to these and novel pathogens is essential for preventing pandemics. In addition, the role of food safety during a pandemic is also essential for safeguarding disrupted food supply lines and for protecting populations suffering from illness who are more vulnerable to foodborne diseases. Having adequate food supplies and assuring their safety during a pandemic is critical for public health, economic stability and social order. In regard to prevention and detection of future pandemics, it is important that food safety authorities be involved in the context of the International Health Regulations and the One Health concept. Preparedness for disasters, including pandemics, should assure the availability of an adequate and safe food supply.

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