30% of Foodborne Illness Deaths Happen In Children Under Age Five

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Nearly one third of all deaths from foodborne disease happen in children under age five, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday.

The WHO reports that globally, around one in 10 people get sick from eating contaminated food. The researchers looked at foodborne diseases caused by factors like bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals. Of the approximately 600 million people who are sickened from food each year, 420,000 people die. Of those deaths, 125,000 happen in kids under age five.

The WHO says diarrheal diseases make up over half of the foodborne illnesses, and children are especially at risk from these diseases. Diarrhea is often caused by eating raw and undercooked meat as well as foods contaminated by norovirus, salmonella and E. Coli.

While the burden of foodborne disease is a global problem, certain diseases are more common in high or low income countries, WHO writes. For instance, salmonella-caused disease is a concern everywhere, whereas foodborne cholera and typhoid fever are more common in low-income countries. “The risk of foodborne diseases is most severe in low- and middle-income countries, linked to preparing food with unsafe water; poor hygiene and inadequate conditions in food production and storage; lower levels of literacy and education; and insufficient food safety legislation or implementation of such legislation,” WHO writes in a statement about the new report.

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The agency says the WHO African Region is the hardest hit; more than 91 million people are infected from foodborne diseases each year and 137,000 people die from them.

The WHO Region of the Americas has the second-lowest burden of foodborne diseases after the WHO European Region. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which was not involved in the report, estimates that 48 million Americans get sick and 3,000 die from foodborne diseases every year.

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