One in 10 people worldwide suffer from a disease caused by food each year, according to figures from the World Health Organization.
Food- borne diseases are a major cause of morbidity and mortality and a significant impediment to economic development worldwide. This has been true since the beginning of mankind, but to date not known exactly the extent of complications generated by unhealthy foods.
Today, the World Health Organization (WHO) has done with that uncertainty and put great numbers to this global problem in a report in which more than 100 experts from around the globe. And the data show that each year, 600 million people (or what is the same, one in 10) ill after eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins or chemicals. 420,000 eventually die.
To perform this document, which took more than a decade of work, the authors included 31 food agents causing diseases, 32 11 etiologic agents of diarrheal diseases (viruses, bacteria and three protozoa seven), seven invasive infectious diseases (viruses, bacteria and protozoa five), 10 helminth and three chemicals.
Most of them are diarrheas
According to the document, diarrheal diseases are responsible for most of these diseases 550 million people suffer each year, of which 230,000 die. Typically, the cause is the consumption of raw or undercooked meat, or eggs and dairy products contaminated with the norovirus Campylobacter, salmonella typhoid or E. coli.
Children under five are the most vulnerable to diarrhea in particular (each year, 220 million suffer and the 96,000 killed) and foodborne diseases in general. In fact, 30% of these complications, although those who have not yet five years old account for only 9% of the world population.
Children who are malnourished are even more defenseless against these diseases. Their poor living conditions make them more exposed to the contaminated food, which increases your chances of getting sick and suffer from diarrhea, and thus further aggravate the malnutrition: terrible vicious cycle occurs. In total, 125,000 children under five die each year from these diseases, but pregnant women, the elderly and immunocompromised also has an extra risk to suffer.
In addition to diarrhea, another major contributor to the impressive figure of 600 million ETA, are typhoid fever (caused by the bacterium Salmonella typhi), hepatitis A (which is mainly transmitted when an uninfected person and unvaccinated eat or drink something contaminated by the stool of an infected person), the lone pork tapeworm, and aflatoxins (produced by mold in grain stored improperly).
As not everyone eats the same, or food infrastructure is developed in the same way everywhere, the impact of these diseases varies from region to region. The Americans are the ones who fare better in the statistics, followed by Europeans. The real tragedy is living in developing countries, where often contaminated water is used to wash food or agricultural chemicals are not adequate.
Thus, Africa the worst of all. On this continent the greatest burden of these diseases is concentrated, which makes 91 million Africans sick each year and about 137,000, according to WHO estimates, they die. Chemical compounds, specifically cyanide and aflatoxin, causing 25% of such deaths in the African region. There exists a unique type of paralysis of this area occurs when cassava is infected by cyanide, causing death and for every five people affected.
The second area hardest hit by these hidden diseases is Southeast Asia, with some 60 million children affected each year, 50.000 of them died recently. There, the main causes are diarrhea, salmonellosis or pork tapeworm, which can cause cysts in the brain that result in epilepsy.
To address this major public health problem, WHO argues that a multisectoral approach involving governments and international organizations, as foodborne diseases affect besides health, economy, tourism compromising necessary, agriculture and food exports.
There is therefore an urgent need to develop food hygiene measures that are cost-effective and can be implemented in resource-poor settings. Some may be the integration of the quality of food in nutrition programs, and encourage and strengthen collaboration between the different sectors involved in this challenge, such as agriculture, health system, animal health, trade and tourism.