Global & Disaster Medicine

Archive for the ‘Food-borne diseases’ Category

WHO: Food Safety Facts


Food Safety Facts

  • An estimated 600 million people – almost 1 in 10 people in the world – fall ill after eating contaminated food and 420 000 die every year.
  • Children aged under 5 carry 40% of the foodborne disease burden, with 125 000 deaths every year.
  • Foodborne illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances entering the body through contaminated food or water.
  • Foodborne diseases impede socioeconomic development by straining health care systems and harming national economies, tourism and trade.
  • The value of trade in food is US$ 1.6 trillion, which is approximately 10% of total annual trade globally.
  • Recent estimates indicate that the impact of unsafe food costs low- and middle-income economies around US$ 95 billion in lost productivity each year.
  • Improving hygiene practices in the food and agricultural sectors helps to reduce the emergence and spread of antimicrobial resistance along the food chain and in the environment.

The first UN World Food Safety Day to be marked on Friday 7 June


The first ever celebration of the United Nations World Food Safety Day, to be marked globally on 7 June, aims to strengthen efforts to ensure that the food we eat is safe.

Every year, nearly one in ten people in the world (an estimated 600 million people) fall ill and 420,000 die after eating food contaminated by bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances. Unsafe food also hinders development in many low- and middle-income economies, which lose around US$ 95 billion in productivity associated with illness, disability, and premature death suffered by workers.

World Food Safety Day 2019’s theme is that food safety is everyone’s business. Food safety contributes to food security, human health, economic prosperity, agriculture, market access, tourism and sustainable development.

The UN has designated two of its agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to lead efforts in promoting food safety around the world.

FAO and WHO are joining forces to assist countries to prevent, manage and respond to risks along the food supply chain, working with food producers and vendors, regulatory authorities and civil society stakeholders, whether the food is domestically produced or imported.

“Whether you are a farmer, farm supplier, food processor, transporter, marketer or consumer, food safety is your business,” FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said. “There is no food security without food safety,” he said.

“Unsafe food kills an estimated 420,000 people every year. These deaths are entirely preventable,” said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “World Food Safety Day is a unique opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers of unsafe food with governments, producers, handlers and consumers. From farm to plate, we all have a role to play in making food safe.”

Investing in sustainable food systems pays off

FAO and WHO underline the importance of everyone’s access to safe, nutritious and sufficient food, and that safe food is critical to promoting health and ending hunger, two of the primary aims of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Safe food allows for suitable intake of nutrients and contributes to a healthy life. Safe food production improves sustainability by enabling market access and productivity, which drives economic development and poverty alleviation, especially in rural areas.

Investment in consumer food safety education has the potential to reduce foodborne disease and return savings of up to $10 for each dollar invested.

Get involved in World Food Safety Day

Activities around the world for World Food Safety Day aim to inspire action to help prevent, detect and manage foodborne health risks.

The right actions along the food supply chain, from farmers to consumers, as well as good governance and regulations, are essential to food safety.

FAO and WHO have created a new guide to show how everyone can get involved. The guide includes five steps to make a sustained difference to food safety:

  1. Ensure it’s safe. Governments must ensure safe and nutritious food for all.
  2. Grow it safe.  Agriculture and food producers need to adopt good practices.
  3. Keep it safe. Business operators must make sure food is safely transported, stored and prepared.
    1. Check it’s safe. Consumers need access to timely, clear and reliable information about the nutritional and disease risks associated with their food choices.
    2. Team up for safety. Governments, regional economic bodies, UN organizations, development agencies, trade organizations, consumer and producer groups, academic and research institutions and private sector entities must work together on food safety issues.

    Starting in 2019, every 7 June will be a time to highlight the benefits of safe food. World Food Safety Day was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2018. The process was initiated in 2016 by Costa Rica through the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is managed by FAO and WHO.

People infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O103, by state of residence, as of May 10, 2019 (n=196)

Map of United States - People infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli, by state of residence, as of May 9, 2019

India: At least 7 have died and 87 others were taken seriously ill after allegedly consuming spurious liquor.

News 18

“……“After the polls were over, a group of local youths held a feast to rejoice and consumed liquor there. They came back home in the night and slept outside their houses as it was too hot inside. They complained of severe stomach pain and headache in the wee hours and were rushed to hospitals, where seven of them died,” said a local youth on condition of anonymity. …..”

CDC: Annual snapshot of foodborne illnesses

The figure is a histogram showing the number of infections diagnosed by culture or culture-independent diagnostic tests, by pathogen, year, and culture status, during 2015–2018, using data from CDC’s Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network.

Tack DM, Marder EP, Griffin PM, et al. Preliminary Incidence and Trends of Infections with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly Through Food — Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 U.S. Sites, 2015–2018. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:369–373. DOI:

A total of 156 people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli O103 have been reported from 10 states.

Map of United States - People infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli, by state of residence, as of April 22, 2019

Epi curve of people infected with the outbreak strain of E. coli, by date of illness onset, as of April 22, 2019

People infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Carrau, by state of residence, as of April 12, 2019 (n=93).

Map of United States - People infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella, by state of residence, as of April 12, 2019

Epi curve of people infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella, by date of illness onset, as of April 12, 2019

People infected with the outbreak strain of Salmonella Carrau, by date of illness onset*


Photo of packages of pre-cut melon on shelves.

France: 4 dead and 15 in ICU after a presumed food poisoning at a retirement home


‘…….”Prosecutors have been informed that there is a strong suspicion of food poisoning,” said deputy mayor Frederic Pasian.

“The residents all had symptoms at around 8pm – an hour and a half after their meal,” Mr Passian added, saying many were “vomiting and displaying other serious symptoms related to their meal.”…..’

CDC: 3 Types of Post-Disaster Poisonings


National Poison Prevention Week (March 17-23) was started in 1962 to encourage Americans to “learn of the dangers of accidental poisoning and to take such preventive measures as are warranted by the seriousness of the danger.” Fifty-seven years later, those threats—and probably some new ones—to personal and public health persist. They can also be prepared for and—in many cases—prevented.

Here are three types of post-disaster poisonings that you should be aware of, and three ways to prepare your health for each.

Carbon monoxide poisoning

Carbon monoxide (or CO) is a silent killer. You can’t see it, smell it, or taste it; yet, there it is any time you burn gasoline, natural gas, charcoal, or kerosene in a car, generator, furnace, grill, or space heater.

A portable generator placed outside and in a dry area on the ground.

Unintentional, non-fire related carbon monoxide (or CO) poisoning takes the lives of at least 430 people and sends another 50,000 people to the emergency department in the U.S. every year. Occurrences of accidental poisonings only increase when—in the aftermath of a disaster or emergency—people try to generate power or warmth or to cook.

Articles detailing the personal health threat posed by CO in the aftermath of hurricanes have appeared in the pages of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report for decades–Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Hurricane Ike in 2008, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and hurricanes Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne in 2004. Most recently, 16 of the 129 deaths in in Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina related to Hurricane Irma in 2017, were CO poisonings.

Here are three ways you can prepare for and prevent CO poisoning after a disaster.

  1. Learn how to use a back-up generator safely. Place generators outside, in a dry area, and at least 20 feet from any door, window, or vent. Never run a generator inside your home or garage, even if doors and windows are open.
  2. Install battery-powered or battery backed-up CO detectors in your home. The U.S. Fire Administration recommends that you test your devices at least once a month. Change the batteries in your CO detectors every six months. If your detector alarms, go outside for fresh air and call 911.
  3. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning are headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion.

Medication poisoning

Medications are, for the most part, safe when used as prescribed and dosed as directed on the label, but there is the risk of an adverse drug event anytime you bring a medicine into the house. In the wrong hands, medicines are dangerous. More often than anyone would like, the wrong hands belong to kids. About 60,000 young children are taken to emergency rooms each year because they got into medicines.

The threat of medication poisoning in kids and adults is also there in an emergency evacuation when families are forced from their homes and into a shelter, a hotel, or the home of a friend or family. Under stressful circumstances and in unfamiliar surroundings, people can forget to practice safe medication use and storage.

Here are three ways you can prepare for and prevent medication poisoning after a disaster.

  1. Keep all prescription medications and over-the-counter medicines and vitamins, including your emergency supply, Up and Away and out of the reach and sight of children and pets—this includes medicines in suitcases, purses, and “grab and go” bags.
  2. Create an Emergency Action Plan that includes important contact information, such as phone numbers for your physician, pediatrician, pharmacist, veterinarian, and the Poison Control Center: 800-222-1222.
  3. Properly dispose of unused, expired, or contaminated medicines in your medicine cabinet and emergency supply. Discard medications that touched floodwater or have changed in appearance or smell. Contact a pharmacist or healthcare provider if you are unsure about a drug’s safety.

Food poisoning

How to clean and sanitize surfaces that do not soak up water and that may have touched floodwater

Food poisoning symptoms may range from mild to severe and may differ depending on the germ you swallowed. Eating or drinking something contaminated by floodwater, for example, can cause diarrheal disease, such as E. coli or Salmonella infection.

Prolonged power outages can also affect food safety. Perishable foods, such as meats, seafood, and dairy, are unsafe to eat after being in your refrigerator when the power has been off for 4 hours or more. Researchers have identified more than 250 foodborne diseases that can cause a variety of symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Here are three ways you can prepare for and prevent food poisoning after a disaster.

  1. When in doubt, throw out any food that may not be safe to eat. That includes foods that have an unusual or unintended odor, color, or texture, foods that may have touched floodwater, and perishable foods that have not been refrigerated properly due to power outages. Never taste food to determine its safety. Food can make you sick even if it looks, smells, and tastes normal.
  2. Throw away wooden cutting boards, baby bottle nipples, and pacifiers if they have come into contact with floodwaters; you cannot properly sanitize them. Clean and sanitize all surfaces in your kitchen, including cutlery and countertops, that come into contact with food.
  3. Handwashing with soap and water is one of the most important practical skills you can learn (and teach to others) to avoid getting sick and spreading germs at all times, including before you handle food—disaster or not. The germs that cause foodborne illnesses can survive in many places around your kitchen, including your hands, utensils, and cutting boards.

Learn more ways to prepare your health for a disaster or an emergency at

At least 133 people have died and more than 200 others have been hospitalized after consuming tainted alcohol in India


“…..Homemade alcohol is typically brewed in villages before being smuggled into cities, where it sells for about 10 cents a glass — about a third the price of legally brewed liquor…….

Country-made liquor often contains toxic methanol, which can make people feel inebriated. However, even a very small amount can be toxic. Methanol poisoning can cause confusion, dizziness, drowsiness, headaches and the inability to coordinate muscle movements…..”


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