According to the World Health Organization (WHO), contaminated food kills 420000 people every year. One third of those killed by foodborne diseases are children under 5 years old.
It is for the first time when WHO estimates the global damage caused by foodborne diseases. WHO’s report also shows that 1 in 10 persons get sick every year after consuming contaminated food. Among the 420000 dead persons, 125,000 (about 30 percent) are children under 5, making them the most vulnerable population. Most of the deaths occur in Africa and South-East Asia.
Specialists identified 31 pathogen agents responsible for foodborne diseases. They are viruses, parasites, bacteria, toxins and chemicals. At a global level, about 600 million people fall ill each year after consuming contaminated food.
Almost half of the global foodborne diseases are diarrhoeal diseases, causing 230,000 deaths and sickening about 550 million people. Among them, 220 million are children who fall ill of which 96,000 die every year. Diarrhoea can be caused by eating raw animal products, like meat, eggs and dairy products contaminated by different pathogens such as Campylobacter, E. coli or non-typhoidal Salmonella.
Other affections causing illness and even death related to foodborne diseases are hepatitis A, typhoid fever, Taenia solium and aflatoxin (which is caused by mould on grain inappropriately stored).
The occurrence of these diseases is connected to wealth status of both the individuals and their living place. While diseases caused by non-typhoidal Salmonella are a concern all over the world, other diseases are specific to different regions. For example, Campylobacter is mostly found in high-income states, diseases like foodborne cholera, typhoid fever and other diseases caused by pathogens like E. coli are specific to low-income regions.
With all that, the risk of food poisoning and foodborne diseases is much higher in poor regions, being connected with poor hygiene, unsafe drinking water and inadequate conditions of food storage and production.
WHO says that food safety is a shared responsibility of all governments, of the food industry but also of individuals. Also, education is crucial to decreasing the risk of foodborne diseases. There should be more training regarding disease prevention among the general public but also to food producers, handlers and suppliers.
The World Health Organization is working with national governments to develop and implement food safety policies and strategies, aiming to produce a positive global impact.
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