1 out of 10 people fall victim to foodborne diseases: WHO

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Dec 05, 2015 05:37 AM EST

In the United States alone, the number of people who fall ill due to foodborne diseases are roughly 48 million people annually. Of that number, 128,000 get hospitalized and about 3,000 die of foodborne diseases, the CDC reports.

A new report coming from the World Health Organization (WHO) reveals, however, that globally, one out of every 10 people suffer from foodborne diseases every year, and victims are mostly children and the poor, Eurekalert reports. The study was conducted by WHO's task force, led by a University of Florida senior researcher.

According to the report, as much as 420,000 die every year from consuming contaminated food and children five years old and below are at very high risk, with 125,000 children losing their lives to such illnesses annually. The WHO says that 30 percent of victims of foodborne diseases are children under the age of five. The report was released following an eight-year long research and data analysis by the WHO task force, which determined the effects of foodborne illnesses on populations globally.

"The groups most adversely affected by the foodborne diseases are children and people in low-income regions of the world," task force leader Dr. Arie Havelaar with UF's Emerging Pathogens Institute explained.

"Of those who lost years to ill-health, disability or early death, 40 percent were children under 5 years old, even though they constitute only 9 percent of the world population," he said. "Foodborne illnesses affect people on the African continent the most, followed by sub-regions of Southeast Asia and the eastern Mediterranean."

Eurekalert reports that in 2007, the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group was created by WHO to analyze global variation in the impact of foodborne diseases. The group has since then idenfitied 31 hazards as the most necessary to include in the known list of disease-causing agents that can be transmitted through food.

Their research also led them to conclude that the 31 foodborne hazards caused 600 million foodborne illnesses and 420,000 in 2010 alone. The study also found that 33 million healthy life years are lost to foodborne diseases yearly, a number that is similar to the count of lives lost due to HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Researchers found that diarrheal disease agents were the most frequent causes of these illnesses, especially norovirus and Campylobacter spp; but non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica, which poisons the blood among people with weakened immune systems, was also a major cause of death among the pathogens analyzed in the study.

"This report should enable governments and other stakeholders to draw public attention to this often under-estimated problem and mobilize political will and resources to combat foodborne diseases," Dr. Kazuaki Miyagishima, the director of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses at the WHO commented.

To read the full report, log on to who.int.

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