Kolkata, Feb 27: Foodborne diseases are defined as diseases, usually either infectious or toxic in nature, caused by agents that enter the body through the ingestion of food.
Every person is at risk of foodborne diseases. Unfortunately, data on the incidence and severity of foodborne diseases in the general population are limited in most countries. Where such data are collected through surveillance programmes, most cases of foodborne diseases are not reported, either because medical treatment is not sought or, when treatment is sought, specimens are not taken to allow diagnostic tests to identify the foodborne pathogen.
Also, certain pathogens transmitted via food may also be spread through water or by person-to-person contact, and this may obscure the role of food as a vehicle for transmission. In addition, some foodborne disease is caused by hitherto unknown pathogens, and thus cannot be diagnosed.
Many pathogens, such as Campylobacter jejuni, Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Cyclospora cayetanensis, were not recognized as causes of foodborne disease twenty years ago. Nowadays, new pathogens are being recognized as a cause of foodborne disease. Foodborne diseases that are nationally reportable in certain developed countries include typhoid fever, cholera, hepatitis A, E. coli O157:H7 infection, haemolytic uraemic syndrome, salmonellosis, and shigellosis. Reporting requirements are stipulated by local and national regulations.
In developing countries (excluding China), foodborne pathogenic microorganisms are estimated to cause up to 70 per cent of the roughly 1.5 billion annual episodes of diarrhoea, and a related 1.8 million deaths in children under the age of five In the United States it is estimated that 76 million illnesses, 325 000 hospitalizations and 5000 deaths result each year from foodborne diseases. While the figure for
morbidity suggests that one in three persons becomes ill each year, foodborne disease is expected to be more prevalent among the young.
Children have unique exposure pathways. They can be exposed in utero to toxic environmental agents that cross the placenta. Such exposures can be biological (viral, bacterial, parasitic) or chemical (pesticides, toxins). They can also be exposed to pollutants that pass into their mother’s milk. Neither of these routes of exposure occur in adults or older children. UN