Every year an estimated 600 million cases of food-borne illnesses are reported across the world.
In 2010, about 420,000 people lost their lives due to diseases such as salmonella and E. coli infection out of which a third were children under the age of five years.
Despite the number of infections increasing year after year, it is difficult to get a clear picture of the real impact foodborne diseases are having to the populations and nations around the world.
The World Health Organization has therefore developed a handbook to help countries measure their foodborne disease burden and identify food safety system needs and data gaps so as to strengthen the national infrastructure and help protect people’s health.
The handbook, which was released on the occasion of World Food Safety Day, observed on June 7 annually will also help countries assess the causes, magnitude, and distribution of foodborne diseases, strengthen national infrastructure, and better protect people’s health.
This year’s World Food Safety Day theme is ‘Safe food today for a healthy tomorrow’.
“Food should sustain and support human health, not harm it,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus. “WHO’s new handbook will help countries to collect and analyze data to inform sustained investments in food safety. The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the intimate links between the health of humans, animals, and the planet that sustains us. WHO will continue to work with partners with a One Health approach to keep communities safe from foodborne disease.”
There are over 250 different food hazards that cause various health issues such as acute or long-term illness or even death.
In 2015, the previous foodborne disease burden epidemiology reference group (FERG) helped WHO publish a historic report that revealed, for the first time ever, the global public health burden of food-borne diseases based on 31 food-borne hazards.
The report showcased the massive health impact of unsafe food and highlighted the need for strong and sustained action.
In 2020, the World Health Assembly adopted a new resolution mandating WHO to monitor the global burden of foodborne and zoonotic diseases at national, regional, and international levels and to report on the global burden of food-borne diseases with the latest estimates of global foodborne disease incidence, mortality and disease burden by 2025.
The organization is reconvening its foodborne disease burden epidemiology reference group (WHO FERG) with 26 new experts from around the world.
The group’s main functions are to advise WHO on methodologies to estimate the global burden of food-borne diseases, to monitor global food safety indicators, and measure the progress being made in food safety.