Growth of eating ‘risky foods’ could lead to foodborne disease increase

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

A street vendor
A street vendor

Related tags Food safety

Low and middle income countries (LMICs) bear the brunt of foodborne disease (FBD), according to a review.

It said developing country consumers are concerned about FBD; most of the known burden comes from biological hazards and is the result of eating fresh, perishable foods sold in informal markets.

Widespread concern over food safety and growing evidence of associated health burden and economic costs makes it likely the topic will receive greater attention in future.

“While we don’t have good data on the burden of FBD in LMICs, microbial pathogens may cause a burden of 18 million disability-adjusted life years​ (DALYs) a year, foodborne parasites at least the same, and aflatoxins 1–2 million DALYs. The full burden of chemical hazards is not known.”

The review is a blend of a longer report commissioned by the Department for International Development, UK.

It was based on a survey of literature on FBD in LMICs, discussions with experts working in FBD in LMICs, and national workshops as part of FBD research projects led by the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Africa and Asia.

Difficult to monitor trends

Because there is no accurate reporting of foodborne disease in LMICs it is difficult to monitor trends.

However, FBD is likely to increase in LMICs as the result of massive increases in the consumption of risky foods (livestock and fish products and produce) and lengthening and broadening value chains, bulking more food and increasing distance between production and consumption.

There are some reasons why FBD may increase in some LMICs, according to the review.

Consumption of fresh, perishable, more risky foods is growing rapidly, driven by increasing population, income, urbanization and globalization.

In response to increased demand, food chains are becoming longer and more complex increasing the spread of hazards. In LMICs the expansion of value chains is happening in advance of effective governance, increasing risk.

It is unclear if the rapid increase in supermarkets will make a difference on FBD as food is believed to be safer than informal markets it is not always the case.

Neglected food safety

There is general consensus that most developing country governments are not able to ensure the safety of most food consumed in domestic markets, said the review.

Food safety has been neglected in LMICs, where most efforts to reduce diarrhoea have focused on water, sanitation and hygiene, it added.

There is limited evidence on effective, sustainable and scalable interventions to improve food safety in domestic markets.

“Training farmers on input use and good practices often benefits those farmers trained, but has not been scalable or sustainable, except where good practices are linked to eligibility for export.

“Training informal value chain actors who receive business benefits from being trained has been more successful.

“New technologies, growing public concern and increased emphasis on food system governance can also improve food safety.

“Where value chain actors are not using food safety technologies, simple innovations such as food grade containers or chlorinated water can result in substantial improvements to food safety and quality.”

But they are some promising approaches detailed in the paper.

“Building on the existing food system may be more successful than attempting to impose completely new systems. Given the importance of FBD, better impact assessment of interventions to improve food safety is a priority.

“There are opportunities to improve food safety through technologies, value chain innovations and restructuring of food safety governance, but the feasibility and effectiveness of these is not well understood.”

Source: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health​, 2015, 12(9), 10490–10507

Online, DOI: 10.3390/ijerph120910490

Food Safety in Low and Middle Income Countries​”

Author: Delia Grace

Related topics Food safety & quality

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