Fighting Foodborne Illnesses in Developing Countries
Foodborne illnesses affect people globally, and they have a significant impact on human health, livelihoods and health care systems. Besides that, they prevent developing countries from being able to export goods to grow economically.
Across the globe, nearly 600 million people contract a foodborne illness every year from eating foods laced with contaminants. Unfortunately, many of these people reside in developing countries where healthcare systems and economies aren’t as stable or endowed with the correct equipment and medications to care for those who contract a disease.
Food safety is a global issue, so the world needs to come together to fight foodborne illnesses in developing countries. However, without a commitment to education and the proper help for everyone, it will be challenging to limit or decrease the number of people who contract a foodborne illness.
Also known as foodborne diseases or food poisoning, foodborne illnesses are caused primarily by disease-causing germs that end up on foods people purchase or harvest for consumption. However, they can also be a result of contaminated drinking water. Most foodborne illnesses are infections caused by parasites, bacteria and viruses, but toxins and chemicals can contaminate foods, too.
Every person is at risk for a foodborne illness. Although food safety protocols and regulations are in place, that doesn’t mean contaminants can't enter the food you or anyone else eats. Typically, developed countries are at a lower risk for foodborne diseases than developing countries, but everyone is still at risk for contracting food poisoning.
When someone contracts a foodborne illness, they’ll often be accompanied by symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting, upset stomach, fever and headaches. And although anyone can get food poisoning, those at higher risk include older adults, young children, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.
Though researchers have found over 250 types of foodborne diseases, some are more common than others. They include:
- Staphylococcus aureus.
- E. coli.
Each of these stems from a microorganism that contaminates food. They are major public health problems and cause serious illness in some people. Other food safety problems come from naturally occurring toxins, metals and persistent organic pollutants.
With industrialization, food production and trade became a global business. Industrialization led to increased wealth and urbanization which has allowed for mass production and an increase in food service establishments. Almost anyone can get involved in the food industry. However, because of this mass production, global environmental factors and limited education, there has been increased contamination.
Although the liberalization of food trade has brought many benefits for the global economy, it presents risks for foodborne illnesses. Food is merely a vehicle for infectious diseases. When foods ship to developing countries, if they contain a contaminant, it affects millions of people. Developing countries are often reliant on food imports, and the further food travels, the more likely it is to pick up diseases along the way.
Unfortunately, foodborne illnesses can quickly spread and developing countries aren’t equipped with the best medical buildings to handle them. Improper food handling and hygiene practices also play a significant role in disease contraction, as well as inadequate cooking, dirty drinking water, contaminated soils that haven’t been washed off produce and cross-contamination.
Various measures have been taken to limit the spread of foodborne illnesses, but they’re not entirely inevitable. However, there are ways to fight foodborne diseases in developing and even developed countries.
Perhaps the most significant factor in fighting foodborne diseases is education. Education on food safety, handling and preparation can significantly reduce the number of foodborne illnesses in developing countries.
Additionally, countries with few resources that face foodborne illness outbreaks every year should prioritize food safety issues. By putting food safety first, and increasing regulations, developing countries can better manage where their food comes from and can take action to handle it properly to lessen the transmission of diseases.
In general, there are steps individuals can take to prevent eating contaminated food. They are:
- Cleaning: When preparing food, you should wash your hands and food preparation areas. Additionally, rinse fresh produce under water.
- Separating: Keep raw meat, poultry, eggs and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods. Cross-contamination of raw meat products is a significant contributor to foodborne illnesses.
- Cooking: cooking food thoroughly will kill bacteria.
- Chilling: Germs can quickly grow on foods within two hours. Chilling them promptly helps stop the growth of bacteria.
These will all aid in the fight against foodborne diseases in developing countries.
It will take a global effort to combat foodborne illnesses and food contamination. Fortunately, with education and proper food safety measures, the number of cases should decline.