9.1 Overview of foodborne diseases
Since as far back as the time when the documentation of human history began, consumption of contaminated food and foodborne diseases have been a major global health problem. Contamination can be with microorganisms, chemicals and physical objects in food (as you learned in Study Session 8), which can lead to a variety of foodborne diseases or ill effects such as poisoning.
Foodborne diseases are still a major public health concern all over the world today. They are responsible for many cases of adult illnesses and some deaths, but more importantly, contaminated food is a source of the acute diarrhoeal diseases that claim the lives of enormous numbers of children every day. Worldwide, about 2 million children under the age of five years die from diarrhoeal diseases every year.
In developing countries like Ethiopia, the problem reaches great proportions for many reasons. Most basic among these are poverty and a lack of public health awareness. The problem of foodborne disease is more serious among rural communities where there tends to be a lower level of awareness about the causes and prevention of foodborne infection.
Well-documented information is lacking regarding the extent of foodborne diseases in Ethiopia because many cases are not properly diagnosed or not reported, and many people who are sick with foodborne diseases do not visit health facilities. This makes it difficult to collect statistical data or even make an estimation of the level of the problem – except that it is certainly huge.