Food Poisoning Kills Millions of Adults Every Year

As we have long and repeatedly been writing, this country has been hammered in recent months over a wide array of food borne contaminations that have sickened many and led to a number of fatalities. It seems that current figures on deaths were underestimating the magnitude of the problem globally.

Reuters is reporting that emerging World Health Organization (WHO) data proves that the fatal ramifications of <"">food borne diseases are more intense than previously estimated and points to some 1.2 million deaths annually in those aged six and over in Southeast Asia and Africa, which is a three-fold increase in adult deaths than WHO believed was occurring world-wide. “It is a picture that we have never had before,” said WHO Food Safety Director Jorgen Schlundt in an interview. “We now have documentation of a significant burden outside the less than five group, that is major new information,” quoted Reuters.

Experts are looking into the issue in people over the age of five “in the Arab world, Latin America, and elsewhere in Asia, including China,” said Reuters.

Schlundt, a Danish veterinarian and microbiologist, noted that young children have long been recognized as a high-risk group, in part to how quickly they dehydrate—an issue with food poisoning, said Reuters. What was unexpected, said Schlundt, was the impact of food borne illnesses and adults.

Older children and the elderly seem to be particularly at risk for severe illness originating from food- and water-borne outbreaks involving Salmonella, Listeria, E. coli, Hepatitis A and Cholera, explained Reuters. “Literally millions are dying every year and we know that a lot of these could be prevented,” Schlundt said to Reuters. “There is a realization that instead of doing what we did in the past, in the future we should really focus on where the problems are,” Schlundt added.

And, even though the United States has been plagued by issues with food safety, poorer countries, said Schlundt, are not as carefully monitored as in the U.S., according to Reuters. Because of this, poorer countries are unable to connect seemingly unrelated cases to find the origins of an outbreak. Also, some pathogens have increased worldwide because of increases in food production, noted Reuters.

Efforts to reduce pathogens from farm to table are called for, said Schlundt, such as reducing chemicals and toxins and keeping food away from mold and mold-friendly conditions. “There are certain pathogens that have increased over the last 20 or 30 years. Some problems clearly have moved and become bigger because of the ways that we produce,” he said, quoted Reuters. “Many of the deaths that we see in developing countries, if they had been treated at the right time, they would not have died,” Schlundt said.

Meanwhile, in March we reported that, while long suspected, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that most food-borne illnesses that sicken millions and kill thousands of Americans yearly are not only preventable, but could be minimized with better analysis and reporting, said WebMD Health News. Most are not reported or not recognized.

In 2006, there were 1,270 reported food-borne disease outbreaks, leading to 27,634 illnesses and 11 deaths; of these, 624 had a confirmed cause: 54 percent were norovirus and 18 percent, Salmonella, reported WebMD, citing the CDC. Because most cases of illness, death, and hospitalizations go unreported, the CDC believes about 76 million Americans, with 300,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths occur annually.

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