A food secure world is one where there is a steady supply of nutritious, safe and accessible food for all. When conditions for food security are not met, problems arise and the most vulnerable sectors of society suffer. One such problem is brought about by unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causing more than 200 diseases—ranging from diarrhoea to cancers.
Foodborne diseases are responsible for the death of 125,000 children under the age of 5 around the world, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the recently published “WHO Estimates of the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases,” the WHO reports that annually, as many as 600 million, or almost 1 in 10 people in the world, fall ill after consuming contaminated food. Of these, 420,000 people die. The report presents the first global and regional estimates of the burden of foodborne diseases.
The large disease burden from food highlights the importance of food safety, particularly in Africa, South-East Asia and other regions. Despite the data gaps and limitations of these initial estimates, it is clear that the global burden of foodborne diseases is considerable and affects individuals of all ages, particularly young children and those living in low-income regions of the world.