Foodborne Diseases Kill 125,000 Kids a Year

Foodborne Diseases Kill 125,000 Kids a YearFoodborne Diseases Kill 125,000 Kids a Year

Almost 600 million people, or 10% of the world’s population, fall ill from eating contaminated food each year. Of these 420,000 die, including 125,000 children under 5 years, according to a report by the World Health Organization and published in PLOS One.

The WHO’s ‘Estimates of the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases’ are the first global estimates of the impact of such diseases.

It points out that while children under 5 years represent only 9% of the global population, they suffer almost 30% of all deaths from contaminated food, especially in low-income areas.

In terms of Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), 33 million years are lost to ill-health, disability or early death each year, with 40% affecting the under-5s.

While the burden of foodborne diseases is a public health concern globally, Africa and South-East Asia are most affected.

The report is the result of ten years’ work, with input from over 100 experts worldwide, and examines foodborne diseases caused by 31 agents, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals, reported.

More than 50% of the diseases are diarrheal, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230,000 to die every year. Diarrhea affects 220 million children each year, killing 96,000. It is often caused by eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, fresh produce and dairy products contaminated by norovirus, (the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans), campylobacter bacterium, nontyphoidal salmonella and pathogenic e coli.

Some diseases, such as those caused by nontyphoidal salmonella, are a public health concern worldwide, regardless of economic status. Others, such as typhoid fever, foodborne cholera and those caused by pathogenic e coli, tend to affect low-income countries, while campylobacter is prevalent in high-income countries.

Symptoms of foodborne diseases can be short-term, such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea typical of “food poisoning,” or long-term, such as cancer, kidney or liver failure, brain and neural disorders.

The diseases may be more serious in children, pregnant women, seniors or those with a weakened immune system. Children who survive some of the more serious diseases may suffer from delayed physical and mental development, impacting their quality of life permanently.

Foodborne diseases are most prevalent in the WHO Africa region, with more than 91 million people falling ill and 137,000 fatalities each year.