Unsafe food kills 2 million people worldwide every year, says WHO

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe food leads to the deaths of an estimated 2 million people annually — including several children.

mumbai Updated: Apr 07, 2015 09:08 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Unsafe food,food poisoning,World Health Organization

What began as just another day for 30-year-old Sunny Kothari, Friday soon tuned into a nightmare for him when he was admitted to a hospital for food poisoning.

He had eaten at restaurants for three consecutive days and thinks he could have picked up the infection from one of the meals.

“I finished my usual morning chores and was getting ready for work, when I developed severe upset stomach,” said Kothari.

The Grant Road resident was eventually hospitalised with ‘bloody diarrhoea’. Apart from a runny stomach, Kothari also developed abdominal pain, started passing blood in his stools and ran high fever. According to doctors, this was a classic case of food poisoning.

“Test reports showed he had rotavirus. Owing to the loose motions, he was severely dehydrated,” said Dr Pratit Samdani, consultant physician at Bhatia Hospital, Tardeo.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), unsafe food leads to the deaths of an estimated 2 million people annually — including several children.

Food with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances is responsible for more than 200 diseases, ranging from diarrhoea to cancer.

The WHO has set food safety as the theme of this year’s World Health Day (on April 7), raising the slogan ‘From farm to plate, make food safe’.

“Food production has been industrialised and its trade and distribution have been globalised,” Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said in a press statement. “These changes introduce multiple new opportunities for food to become contaminated with harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites, or chemicals.”

Examples of unsafe food include undercooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and shellfish containing marine biotoxins.

“Food poisoning is still a rampant and serious problem and it will remain so till hygiene standards improve and people start taking adequate precautions,” said Dr Samdani. “At times, food poisoning can be fatal too. A month ago, I had a patient who suffered from kidney failure because of eating unsafe food,” said Dr Samdani.

Ahead of the World Health Day, the WHO issued the first findings from what is a broader ongoing analysis of the global burden of foodborne diseases.

The full results of this research, being undertaken by WHO’s Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG), are expected to be released in October later this year.

“Food poisoning can be very mild or very lethal depending from case to case. I see a rise in these cases in summers. Consuming unhygienic street food can also be a major cause for food poisoning,” said Dr Nikhil Kulkarni, general physician.

First Published: Apr 06, 2015 22:28 IST