Global figures for the burden of foodborne disease

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Every year one in ten people around the world gets sick from food they eat and 420,000 diet as a result. This is the finding of a report from the World Health Organization, WHO, which uncovers the global burden of foodborne disease. Researchers from the National Food Institute and Technical University of Denmark have contributed considerably to the project.

Foodborne disease

Knowledge about the burden of foodborne disease is crucial when setting public health targets, prioritizing resources and assessing the impact of these diseases on public health and the economy.

Statistics on foodborne disease only show the tip of the iceberg because few people go to the doctor when they get sick from something they have eaten. Over the past decade, WHO has worked to produce data that can correct for underreporting and underdiagnosis and thereby reveal the true burden of foodborne disease. This work has been carried out with the help of researchers from around the world, including researchers from the National Food Institute, who have contributed with significant input.

Children most at risk

The project shows that within one year, one in ten people globally get sick from food they eat and of these, 420,000 end up dying.

Foodborne diseases affect people of all ages, but children are particularly at risk. WHO’s new figures show that a third of deaths related to unsafe food occur among children under five, although this age group is less than one tenth of the world’s population.

The report also shows regional differences and reveals that both cases of foodborne disease and mortality rates as a consequence thereof are higher in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Danish input

Researchers from the National Food Institute has been part of an international research team, that has calculated the number of cases of disease and deaths caused by nine bacteria, viruses and parasites, which are commonly transmitted through food and typically cause diarrhea.

Researchers from the National Food Institute have also led a global study to estimate, how big a proportion of these diseases that is directly linked to food consumption. Results are presented at both global and regional level.

Read more
The report on the global burden of disease can be downloaded from WHO’s website: Estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases.

The project has resulted in a number of scientific articles in the publication PLOS ONE, to which several researchers at the National Food Institute have contributed.

Please also read about how the institute works to estimate the actual burden of disease and its consequences for society in a news item from 9 December 2015: Research to close knowledge gaps on burden of disease.

Article by Heidi Kornholt, Miriam Meister, DTU Online News

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