Anyone who has ever endured the misery of food poisoning knows it's one of the worst experiences ever. But faced with shocking new data released today, you might realize just how lucky you are to be alive.
There are 582 million cases of foodborne illness worldwide each year, according to new data from the World Health Organization, and from those, a staggering 351,000 people die .
Even more shocking, more than 40 percent of the people affected by these diseases were children under 5 years old. The WHO report identified Africa and Southeast Asia as the countries hardest hit by foodborne illness, which are caused by bacteria, viruses, harmful chemicals, and even parasites carried by meat and produce.
Here in the U.S, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says salmonella, E. coli, listeria and campylobacter are mostly likely to make you sick. And if you thought you only need to watch out for improperly cooked meat or spoiled milk, think again. The CDC released a breakdown of the cause of each of these common illnesses, and the results might surprise you:
- 74 percent of campylobacter illnesses were linked to dairy or chicken.
- 82 percent of E. coli illnesses were linked to beef or vegetables.
- 81 percent of listeria illnesses were linked to dairy or fruits.
Salmonella illnesses, on the other hand, were more evenly split between seeded vegetables, eggs, fruits, chicken, pork and sprouts.
The WHO takes food safety so seriously that the organization is making it the focus of this year's World Health Day on April 7. Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan said that because foodborne illnesses can spread so quickly, they can pose a serious threat to global health.
“A local food safety problem can rapidly become an international emergency," Chan said in a statement. "Investigation of an outbreak of foodborne disease is vastly more complicated when a single plate or package of food contains ingredients from multiple countries.”
The global problem of antibiotic-resistance compounds the problem. Many foodborne illnesses are passed through livestock, or livestock's fecal matter, which can contaminate fruits and vegetables. The bacteria become even more dangerous if they stop responding to conventional antibiotic treatments.
To avoid getting sick, follow simple hygienic cooking practices—especially when you're dealing with foods like raw meat that are known to be risky. The organization recommends keeping meat, poultry and seafood separate from other foods during cooking, and washing all fruits and vegetables before eating them.
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Photo credit: Fotos GOVBA via Flickr