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One in 10 hit by foodborne illness each year: WHO

Washington: The World Health Organization (WHO) unveiled its first global foodborne disease estimates that shows tainted food hits one in 10 people worldwide each year.

These foodborne diseases put the children and the poor at greatest risk and threats varying by region, according to the findings of the task force headed by a University of Florida senior researcher.

The announcement comes after more than eight years of research and data analysis by a WHO task force composed to measure the effect of foodborne diseases on populations around the globe.

The groups most adversely affected by the foodborne diseases are children and people in low-income regions of the world, said task-force leader Arie Havelaar, adding “Of those who lost years to ill-health, disability or early death, 40 percent were children under 5 years old, even though they constitute only 9 percent of the world population. Foodborne illnesses affect people on the African continent the most, followed by sub-regions of Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean.”

Havelaar noted that estimating the burden of foodborne diseases is highly complex due to the many diseases involved and the full extent of chemical and biological contamination of food, and its burden to society, is still unknown.

Results from the study indicate that up to 33 million healthy life years are lost each year due to foodborne diseases each year, a number on par with the “big three” infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis and air pollution, but clearly lower than the burden of dietary risk factors or unimproved water and sanitation.

Dr. Kazuaki Miyagishima, the director of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses at the WHO, said that this report should enable governments and other stakeholders to draw public attention to this often under-estimated problem and mobilize political will and resources to combat foodborne diseases.

The research is due to be published in a PLOS Collection. (ANI)