WHO Discusses Food-borne Disease

MassTortDefense has posted about a number of food-related product issues, including the recent China dairy crisis. Now the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that food-borne illnesses are increasing, and not just in the developing world. In the US, food poisoning causes about 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and up to 5,000 deaths, annually, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There is some indication that the problem is increasing. Approximately one-third of new infectious diseases originate in bacteria, viruses, parasites, chemicals, and toxins introduced along food production chains.

The WHO is the coordinating authority for health within the United Nations system. Their view is that eradication of food-borne diseases requires a concerted effort on the part of the three principal partners: governments, the food industry, and consumers.  WHO is urging monitoring of the entire food chain, citing the emerging so-called “farm to fork” approach. WHO rejects the notion that you can deal with it at the end of the food chain. Often, there is a lack of collaboration, organization, or cooperation is problematic. In China, for example, there are 16 different authorities involved in some way in dealing with the melamine crisis.

Experts are also concerned about the long-term consequences of food problems. For example, E. coli is now known to cause pediatric kidney failure. This issue can implicate medical monitoring claims.

In the United States, food-borne disease outbreaks are typically linked to eggs, poultry and dairy products, but they have recently been caused by fresh produce. Tomatoes were suspected in the U.S. outbreak before the salmonella was traced to peppers from Mexico. The FDA, last week, announced the formal opening of the first of several offices in China, which are designed to place experts “on the ground” in the areas of China where many food and other imported products originate.
 

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