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WHO raises concern on food-borne diseases

By Carol Natukunda

Added 8th June 2019 12:31 PM

Although everyone is vulnerable, the agency warned that children, pregnant women, older persons and terminally ill patients were particularly at a higher risk.

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Although everyone is vulnerable, the agency warned that children, pregnant women, older persons and terminally ill patients were particularly at a higher risk.

WHO     FOOD    MOETI

Complications arising out of eating contaminated food are costing economies heavily, the World Health Organisation has warned.

Almost 1 in 10 people fall ill after consuming contaminated food, translating into more than 600 million people globally every year.  In Africa, an estimated 91 million people annually consume contaminated food that renders them ill, and about 137,000 of them die as a result.

In a statement released to mark the first ever World Food Safety day 2019, the agency stated that food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances cause diseases ranging from acute diarrhoea to lifelong conditions, including some cancers.

It warned that the burden was enormous.

“In addition to the expense for health care, foodborne diseases impose considerable other costs to individuals, communities and countries due to the lost income from illness-related loss of work,” the statement from the WHO Africa office said.

“ Beyond the US$15 billion in medical expenses that households in low- and middle-income economies spend each year because of unsafe food, a World Bank study also found that those economies lose US$95.2 billion in economic productivity,” it added.

The agency named risk factors as preparing food with unsafe water; poor hygiene and inadequate conditions in food production and storage; lower levels of literacy and education; and insufficient food safety legislation or implementation of such legislation.

 Access to safe water is still a big challenge in Africa

“Most of this health burden and economic loss could be avoided with proper management of food and food products and appropriate hygiene by producers and consumers,” the statement said.

The WHO Regional Director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti stressed that foodborne diseases are preventable.

“ All players along the food chain, have a role in making food safe, beginning with producers and processors and moving to distributors, food safety regulators, retailers and eventually servers and consumers,”  said Dr. Moeti.

Although everyone is vulnerable, the agency warned that children, pregnant women, older persons and terminally ill patients were particularly at  a higher risk.

Against this background, the United Nations has initiated the World Food Safety Day to be celebrated on June 7 every year to highlight the need for to promote food hygiene from the farm, the market, storage and to the consumer. 

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