Curbing Foodborne Diseases

Curbing Foodborne DiseasesCurbing Foodborne Diseases

The ministries of agriculture and health have signed a MoU on joint cooperation to control foodborne diseases mainly through reducing the amount of pesticide residues, chemical fertilizers and heavy metals in agricultural products and by preventing use of wastewater in farmland irrigation.

Foodborne diseases encompass a wide spectrum of illnesses and are a growing public health concern worldwide. They are the result of ingestion of foodstuffs contaminated with microorganisms or harmful chemicals, IRNA reported.

The contamination of food may occur at any stage in the process from food production to consumption (“farm to fork”) and can result from environmental contamination, including pollution of water, soil or air, says the WHO.

Earlier, Rasoul Dinarvand, head of the Food and Drug Administration had said that annually 35,000 people in Iran lose their lives due to contaminated food.

The most common clinical presentation of foodborne diseases takes the form of gastrointestinal symptoms; however, such diseases can also have neurological, immunological and other symptoms. Multiorgan failure and even cancer may also result from the ingestion of contaminated foodstuffs.

The MoU, signed between the two ministries on Saturday, commits the Agriculture Jihad and Health Ministry to take measures separately and jointly to control such diseases.  

Improving quality of agriculture pesticides and fertilizers, accelerating the process of issuing identification certificates for gardens and farmlands (to have better supervision), provision of training to farmers on how to minimize use of chemical pesticides in farms, increasing production and use of bio-fertilizers and non-chemical pesticides, and preventing unnecessary prescription of potentially harmful veterinary drugs, are among  the 22 different tasks the Agriculture Ministry is committed to.   

Figures released by the Plant Protection Organization show that while 19 million hectares are under cultivation of agricultural crops, last year only 200,000 hectares in 24 provinces were covered by non-chemical pest control methods, and therefore efforts should be made to cover more farmlands.

The methods are currently being implemented in paddy fields, tomato farms and apple and pomegranate gardens.

  Monitoring Pesticide Residue

Under the MoU, the FDA is also responsible for monitoring pesticide residues in food products and developing plans to support farmers’ health, as they are regularly exposed to pesticides and other harmful chemicals in agricultural work.

The Health Ministry is responsible for devising protocols on how food producers can obtain health permits issued by the National Veterinary Organization for transporting livestock products.

Presenting reports on infectious and communicable diseases that are transmitted through the food supply chain, as well as zoonotic diseases in human populations, are among other important tasks entrusted to the ministry. Annually, more than 110 million tons of agricultural products are supplied to the domestic market while the surplus is exported.