Here’s why you need to be aware of foodborne illnesses and its causes

Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health. Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases - rangeing from diarrhoea to cancers

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According to the World Health Organization an estimated 600 million – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year, resulting in the loss of 33 million healthy life years (DALYs).

Children under 5 years of age carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125, 000 deaths every year. Diarrhoeal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230, 000 deaths every year.

Neeta Somkunwar, a dietician at Aundh Civil Hospital, Pune, said, “ Food safety, nutrition and food security are inextricably linked. Unsafe food creates a vicious cycle of disease and malnutrition, particularly affecting infants, young children, elderly and the sick. Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems, and harming national economies, tourism and trade.”

Foodborne illnesses are usually infectious or toxic in nature and caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water. Foodborne pathogens can cause severe diarrhoea or debilitating infections including meningitis.

Chemical contamination can lead to acute poisoning or long-term diseases, such as cancer. Foodborne diseases may lead to long-lasting disability and death. Examples of unsafe food include uncooked foods of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with faeces, and raw shellfish containing marine biotoxins.

Norovirus infections are characterised by nausea, explosive vomiting, watery diarrhoea and abdominal pain. Hepatitis A virus can cause long-lasting liver disease and spreads typically through raw or undercooked seafood or contaminated raw produce. Infected food handlers are often the source of food contamination.

V Jawdekar, Joint Commissioner from Food and Drug Authority, Pune, said, “With the onset of festive season many cases of contamination of food come. People should keep a watch on what are they eating. They should also be vigilant. If they come across any case of contamination we should be informed immediately.”