For the first time in history the World Health Organization has produced estimates on how wide-reaching are the effects of food poisoning. Namely, one in ten people are affected each and every year and up to half a million people die from this - a third of these children.
The World Health Organization has completed the most comprehensive report on foodborne diseases in history: "Estimates of the global burden of foodborne diseases". This report has revealed the shocking statistics that ten per cent of people every year fall ill with foodborne diseases, 420,000 people die of these and among these are 125,000 children.
The worst-affected regions are Africa and South-East Asia and according to the report, the main causes of foodborne diseases are 31 agents, among them bacteria, viruses, parasites and toxins. And also, chemicals. So if a packet of cigarettes has a health warning, why don't packs of food?
600,000,000 people fall ill each and every year to foodborne diseases, this being translated into around one tenth of the world's population, or one in ten people. Over 550,000,000 people fall ill to diarrhoeal diseases every year, resulting in 230,000 deaths. Among these, children account for 220,000,000 patients, and 96,000 deaths yearly.
According to the WHO report, the main causes of diarrhoeal diseases are eating raw or undercooked meat, eggs, dairy products or fresh products contaminated by norovirus, Campylobacter, Salmonella, typhoid fever, hepatitis A, Taenia solium, aflatoxin, foodborne cholera and E.coli.
The report identifies Campylobacter as a pathogen prevalent in high-income countries and typhoid fever, E.coli and cholera as being more prevalent in low-income countries. The countries most at risk are those in the middle and low-income brackets and the vectors involved are unsafe water, deficient hygienic conditions, bad storage and production practices, deficient literacy skills and education levels and an absence or lack of proper legislation.
The report identifies food poisoning as short-term (vomiting and diarrhea) and long-term (cancer, kidney failure, liver failure, brain and neural disorders). Evidently, children, the elderly and those with suppressed immune systems are most at risk, and children who have been contaminated with foodborne diseases can suffer from impaired development and long-term impacts on their lives.
Firstly, we need to know what is in the food we buy. If there are potentially or actually harmful elements, while a small dosage might not be dangerous, prolonged exposure might be, in which case we need a health warning as we see on packs of cigarettes. If genetically modified products are present in the food, we also need to know because science has not yet produced any conclusive evidence as to the safety of consuming such elements.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru.