martes, 18 de noviembre de 2008

Time to count the burden of foodborne disease

Many people suffer or die from foodborne disease each year
Foodborne disease outbreaks make the news daily. We can assume that billions of people fall ill every year, and that many die, because they ate food contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals. But no-one has ever quantified the problem comprehensively. Indeed, we have only a sketchy idea of how many people suffer from foodborne diseases every year, or the economic damage they cause.
The recent reports of melamine-contaminated milk powder in China remind us that foodborne illnesses can hit at anytime and anywhere. Over 50,000 children in China suffered kidney problems and four died from drinking the contaminated milk powder, which was also exported to dozens of countries. There is no telling how many more victims we will see over the coming months.
Wide spectrum We usually associate foodborne diseases with diarrhea or vomiting, but they cause hundreds of illnesses. Their wide spectrum encompasses well-publicized ones, such as salmonellosis, avian flu and variant Creutzfeld-Jacob-Disease, but also less well-known ones, such as contamination by aflatoxin in peanuts, pistachios and other nuts as well as milk or methylmercury in fish, which can cause neuro-developmental disorders.
The real tragedy of these diseases is played out in developing countries, especially those with tropical climate where people are more exposed to hazardous environments, poor food production processes and handling, inadequate food storage and hygiene during food preparation, and poor regulatory standards.
Every year, over 2 million children die from diarrheal diseases, a considerable proportion of which probably came from food. But the real death toll from across the spectrum of foodborne disease is likely to be much higher.
Economic impacts Beyond these health impacts, foodborne diseases also affect economic development, and particularly challenge agricultural, food and tourist industries.
Developing countries' access to food export markets depends on their ability to meet the World Trade Organization's regulatory requirements. Unsafe exports can cause severe economic losses. For example, in early 2008, Saudi Arabia refused Indian poultry products valued at nearly US$500,000 following a bird flu outbreak in West Bengal.
In 2007, the WHO launched an international initiative to fill in the gaps. The WHO Initiative to Estimate the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases aims to quantify how many people die from or are affected by all major foodborne causes each year. It hopes to report by 2011.
Aporte: Guillermo Figueroa

No hay comentarios.: