Contaminated food claims 420,000 lives each year

Every year almost one in 10 people in the world get sick and 420,000 die from eating food in poor conditions, highlights the 2022 edition of the World Guide to Food Safety, presented by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Contaminated food

Some 200 diseases, with more than 600 million cases annually, are transmitted by contaminated food or unsafe food, with an estimated loss of productivity of 95 billion dollars.

The WHO and the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) emphasize that diseases caused by contaminated food disproportionately affect vulnerable and marginalized people, such as women and children, and populations subject to conflict and migration.

According to these UN agencies, if food safety and quality are improved, hunger, malnutrition and infant mortality are also reduced, in addition to the fact that children miss fewer days of school and adults are absent less from work.

The guide specifies that more than 200 diseases are caused by eating food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals such as heavy metals.

The burden this has on public health systems is comparable to that of malaria or HIV-AIDS. However, unlike other illnesses, illnesses caused by unsafe foods can be prevented with education, hygiene, and proper food handling.

chronic health problems

The document adds that antimicrobial-resistant microbes can be transmitted through the food chain, by direct contact between animals and people or through the environment, and details that some 700,000 people die each year in the world due to infections resistant to antimicrobials.

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In addition, it underlines that diseases caused by foodborne parasites can cause acute and chronic health problems, and reports that the cases of the 11 main parasitic diseases reach 48.4 million a year and that 48% of them are from food origin.

The WHO drew attention to the high risk of malnutrition and mortality due to the intake of harmful foods that children under five years of age have, and specifies that this group represents 40% of diseases transmitted by food. Harmful foods cause one in six deaths from diarrhoea, one of the conditions that cause the most deaths in this age group.

The WHO insisted that safe and nutritious food is essential for children’s growth and development, because it improves intellectual and physical potential, and increases school performance and work productivity in adult life. He also stressed that exclusive breastfeeding is the safest way to feed babies for the first six months of life.

On the other hand, the WHO and the FAO affirmed that the production of safe food reduces food loss and waste and benefits the planet. They also argue that safe food helps the economy by increasing productivity, allowing for thriving domestic food markets, more exports, and stable food trade. Safe food also reduces pressure on health care systems, the WHO noted.

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The UN agencies indicated that the health of animals, plants and the environment in which they have produced affect food safety, for which they advocated the adoption of a comprehensive approach that guarantees that all food is safe that reaches the consumer.

Among the advances in this direction, they mentioned that 188 countries plus the European Union have negotiated recommendations based on scientific data related to food safety and quality, the Codex Alimentarius standards, which guarantee that food is safe and can be marketed.

Since 1963, the FAO and the WHO has developed the Codex Alimentarius as a set of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and recommendations related to food, its production and its safety.

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