Sunday, December 6, 2009


Food borne diseases cause immense damage in terms of human mortality and most of them are preventable by creating increased awareness about sound food handling practices amongst the vulnerable population. Poor hygiene and sanitation, unsatisfactory cleaning of fresh produce, improper storage and cooking practices and use of infected and infested raw materials are some of the reasons for the prevalence diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, jaundice etc. The true dimension of the problem has dawned on the WHO only recently.

"Millions of adults die every year from bugs and toxins in what they eat, according to new World Health Organisation data that shows food-borne diseases are far more deadly than the U.N. agency previously estimated. The research faults unsafe food for 1.2 million deaths per year in people over the age of five in Southeast Asia and Africa - three times more adult deaths than the Geneva-based WHO had thought occurred in the whole world. "It is a picture that we have never had before," WHO Food Safety Director Jorgen Schlundt said in an interview. "We now have documentation of a significant burden outside the less than five group, that is major new information." Ailments linked to contaminated food and water have long been seen as a major threat to young children, who can dehydrate quickly. But the Danish veterinarian and microbiologist said the risks to older populations had been grossly underestimated. Older children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to severe illness from major food- and water-borne diseases such as salmonella, listeria, E. coli, Hepatitis A and cholera".

Is there no way to prevent the spread of this scourge year after year in spite of so much knowledge available on the mechanics of controlling food contamination? While organized industry, under control of the governments, can contribute significantly to prevent food contamination in their manufacturing facilities, it is the informal sector comprising small retailers, small scale eateries, cottage industries, large scale catering business and community meals which are vulnerable to serious food contamination. Deterrent measures with severe penalties for the culprits and massive sensitization of workers regarding the importance of sanitation can only control food borne diseases to any meaningful extent.


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