The global burden of foodborne diseases caused by contaminated food in 2010 has been estimated as 33 million Disability Adjusted Life Years. Of these years lost, 40% were in children under 5 years old. This is according to new estimates from a World Health Organisation (WHO) taskforce, which publishes its findings this week in a new PLOS Collection.
To measure the global and regional burden of foodborne disease, WHO established the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG), which now report their first estimates of the incidence, mortality, and disease burden due to 31 foodborne hazards in 2010. FERG found that the global burden of foodborne disease is comparable to HIV/AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis. Diarrheal disease agents, especially non-typhoidal Salmonella enterica, were responsible for the majority of deaths. Other major causes of foodborne disease deaths were Salmonella Typhi, Taenia solium (pork tapeworm) and hepatitis A virus. For those cases where illness, rather than death, is documented, the most frequent causes were diarrheal disease agents, particularly norovirus and Campylobacter spp. Among chemical agents evaluated by FERG, aflatoxin was found to cause the greatest burden.
The PLOS Collection also documents global variation in the impact of foodborne disease, with Africa being hardest hit, followed by sub-regions of South-East Asia and Eastern Mediterranean. Tthe burden of foodborne disease is borne particularly by children under five years old – although they represent only 9% of the global population – and people living in low-income regions of the world.