WHO releases global estimates for foodborne disease

E. Coli bacteria under an electromagnetic microscope.
E. Coli bacteria under an electromagnetic microscope. | Courtesy of the CDC
The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued a report detailing the global effects of foodborne illnesses and contaminated food.

According to the report, approximately 30 percent of fatalities associated with these illnesses is reported in individuals under five years of age. The WHO stated that foodborne illness have higher burdens on African and Southeast Asian countries. Overall, approximately 420,000 people die from these illnesses annually, with approximately 125,000 of these being children under five.

Diseases that are included within this designation include salmonella, E. coli and typhoid fever, which are considered to be agents that have the potential to become weaponized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The WHO stated that common foodborne illness symptoms consist of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Certain conditions may lead to more severe complications that can include certain cancers, organ failure and neurological problems.

The report consists of the evaluation of data across a decade, during which the WHO consulted with approximately 100 global health experts.

“[The findings] are conservative, and more needs to be done to improve the availability of data on the burden of foodborne diseases,” Kazuaki Miyagishima, director of the WHO Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses, said. “But based on what we know now, it is apparent that the global burden of foodborne diseases is considerable, affecting people all over the world -- particularly children under five years of age and people in low-income areas.” 

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World Health Organization

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