Danger Looms As Foodborne Diseases Hit Alarming Levels
Food safety is an increasingly important public health issue and governments all over the world are intensifying their efforts to improve food safety. These efforts are in response to an increasing number of food safety problems like foodborne diseases. According to the world health organization, these are diseases usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food.
Magnitude Of Foodborne Illness
Foodborne diseases are a widespread and growing public health problem, both in developed and developing countries. The global incidence of foodborne disease is difficult to estimate, but it has been reported that in 2005 alone 1.8 million people died from diarrhoeal diseases and ever since, this number is believed to have increased. A great proportion of these cases can be attributed to contamination of food and drinking water. Additionally, diarrhoea is a major cause of malnutrition in infants and young children.
In industrialized countries, the percentage of the population suffering from foodborne diseases each year has been reported to be up to 30%. In the United States of America (USA), for example, around 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year. While less well documented, developing countries bear the brunt of the problem due to the presence of a wide range of foodborne diseases, including those caused by parasites. The high prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases in many developing countries suggests major underlying food safety problems.
While most foodborne diseases are sporadic and often not reported, foodborne disease outbreaks may take on massive proportions. For example, in 1994, an outbreak of salmonellosis due to contaminated ice cream occurred in the USA, affecting an estimated 224,000 persons. In 1988, an outbreak of hepatitis A, resulting from the consumption of contaminated clams, affected some 300,000 individuals in China.
Major Foodborne Diseases A Glance
Salmonellosis: Thisis a major problem in most countries. Salmonellosis is caused by the Salmonella bacteria and symptoms are fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Examples of foods involved in outbreaks of salmonellosis are eggs, poultry and other meats, raw milk and chocolate.
Campylobacteriosis: This is a wide spreadinfection that is caused by certain species of Campylobacter bacteria and in some countries, the reported number of cases surpasses the incidence of salmonellosis. Foodborne cases are mainly caused by foods such as raw milk, raw or undercooked poultry and drinking water. Acute health effects of campylobacteriosis include severe abdominal pain, fever, nausea and diarrhoea. In two to ten per cent of cases the infection may lead to chronic health problems, including reactive arthritis and neurological disorders.
Cholera: This disease is increasingly becoming synonymous with the developing world thus a major public health problem. The disease is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. In addition to water, contaminated foods can be the vehicle of infection. Different foods, including rice, vegetables, millet gruel and various types of seafood have been implicated in outbreaks of cholera. Symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting and profuse watery diarrhoea, may lead to severe dehydration and possibly death, unless fluid and salt are replaced.
The list is endless but what is more important to note is how to lessen the outbreak of these diseases. The world ought to join hands in promoting food safety through senstisation and policy formulation among other initiatives. These efforts should cover the entire food chain from production to consumption should embrace all types of expertise world over.
FOOD SAFETY- WHAT YOU MUST KNOW
Foodborne diseases take a major toll on health. Millions of people fall ill and many die as a result of eating unsafe food. Deeply concerned by this, WHO Member States adopted a resolution in 2000 to recognize food safety as an essential public health function.
Food safety encompasses actions aimed at ensuring that all food is as safe as possible. Food safety policies and actions need to cover the entire food chain, from production to consumption.
Food safety is a public health priority; millions of people fall ill every year and many die as a result of eating unsafe food. Serious outbreaks of foodborne disease have been documented on every continent in the past decade, and in many countries rates of illnesses are increasing significantly.
Key global food safety concerns include spread of microbiological hazards (including such bacteria as Salmonella or Escherichia coli, e. coli), chemical food contaminants, assessments of new food technologies (such as genetically modified food) and strong food safety systems in most countries to ensure a safe global food-chain.
FOOD SAFETY FACTS
More than 200 diseases are spread through food
Millions of people
fall ill every year and many die as a result of eating unsafe food.
Diarrhoeal diseases alone kill an estimated 1.5 million children annually, and most of these illnesses are attributed to contaminated food or water. Proper food preparation can prevent most foodborne diseases.
Foodborne diseases are increasing worldwide
Disease-causing organisms in food are transmitted far and wide by today’s interconnected global food-chains – escalating how often and where foodborne illnesses occur. Rapid urbanization worldwide is adding to risks, as urban dwellers eat more food prepared outside the home that may not be handled or prepared safely – including fresh foods and fish, meat and poultry.
Food safety is a global concern
Globalization of food production and trade increases the likelihood of international incidents involving contaminated food. Imported food products and ingredients are common in most countries. Stronger food safety systems in export countries can reinforce both local and cross-border health security.
Emerging diseases are tied to food production
About 75% of the new infectious diseases affecting humans over the past 10 years were caused by bacteria, viruses and other pathogens that started in animals and animal products. Many of these diseases in people are related to the handling of infected domestic and wild animals during food production – in food markets and at slaughter houses.
Minimize the risk of avian influenza
The vast majority of H5N1 avian influenza cases in people follow direct contact with infected live or dead birds. There is no evidence that the disease is spread to people by eating properly cooked poultry. To avoid risk of foodborne illnesses in poultry one ought to separate raw meat from other foods, keep clean and wash your hands and cook thoroughly (until meat is 70 °C in all parts, with no pink areas).
Disease prevention starts from the farm
Preventing animal infections at the farm level can reduce foodborne illnesses. For example, reducing the amount of Salmonella in farm chickens by 50% (through better farm management) results in 50% less people getting sick from the bacteria. Salmonella-free chicken herds are becoming more common in some countries.
Chemical hazards can contaminate food
Acrylamide, which may cause cancer, is formed from natural ingredients during the cooking of some foods at high temperatures (generally above 120 °C), including fried potato products, baked cereal products and coffee. The food industry is working to find methods to lower exposure to such chemicals. Avoid overcooking when frying, grilling or baking food.
Everyone has a role to play in food safety
Food contamination can occur at any stage from farm to table. Everyone on the food delivery chain must employ measures to keep food safe – farmer, processor, vendor and consumer. Safety at home is just as vital to prevent disease outbreaks. Women are primary targets for food safety education as they are responsible for household meals in many societies.
Schools ought to champion food safety
Educating children on safe food handling behaviors is key to preventing foodborne diseases today and in the future. Integrating food safety lessons into school curricula gives children essential life skills that can help to keep them and their families healthy.
Five keys to food safety
WHO and Member States are promoting the benefits of food safety, healthy diets and physical activity. The five keys to safer food are:
- keep clean
- separate raw and cooked
- cook all foods thoroughly
- keep food at safe temperatures
- Use safe water and raw materials.