World Health Organisation:

Children under 5 account for 30% foodborne disease deaths

Almost one third (30%) of all deaths from foodborne diseases are in children under the age of 5 years, despite the fact that they make up only 9% of the global population. This is among the findings of WHO's "Estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases" – the most comprehensive report to date on the impact of contaminated food on health and well-being.

The report, which estimates the burden of foodborne diseases caused by 31 agents – bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals – states that each year as many as 600 million, or almost 1 in 10 people in the world, fall ill after consuming contaminated food. Of these, 420 000 people die, including 125 000 children under the age of 5 years.

While the burden of foodborne diseases is a public health concern globally, the WHO African and South-East Asia Regions have the highest incidence and highest death rates, including among children under the age of 5 years.

Diarrhoeal diseases are responsible for more than half of the global burden of foodborne diseases, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230 000 deaths every year. Children are at particular risk of foodborne diarrhoeal diseases, with 220 million falling ill and 96 000 dying every year. Diarrhoea is often caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, fresh produce and dairy products contaminated by norovirus, Campylobacter, non-typhoidal Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli.

Other major contributors to the global burden of foodborne diseases are typhoid fever, hepatitis A, Taenia solium (a tapeworm), and aflatoxin (produced by mould on grain that is stored inappropriately).

Certain diseases, such as those caused by non-typhoidal Salmonella, are a public health concern across all regions of the world, in high- and low-income countries alike. Other diseases, such as typhoid fever, foodborne cholera, and those caused by pathogenic E. coli, are much more common to low-income countries, while Campylobacter is an important pathogen in high-income countries.

The risk of foodborne diseases is most severe in low- and middle-income countries, linked to preparing food with unsafe water; poor hygiene and inadequate conditions in food production and storage; lower levels of literacy and education; and insufficient food safety legislation or implementation of such legislation.

For more information, contact:
Fadéla Chaib
WHO
Tel: +41 22 791 32 28
Email: chaibf@who.int

Publication date:



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