ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Taking Food Safety Seriously

India needs to treat food-borne diseases with much more seriousness than it does at present.

The World Health Organization (WHO) in its first global estimates of preventable food-borne diseases has reported that 600 million people (one in 10) fall ill and 420,000 die every year from contaminated food. According to the report, “WHO Estimates of the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases,” the highest number of cases occurs in Africa and South-east Asia which includes India. Children under five bear the brunt, accounting for 40% of the population that falls ill and 30% (125,000) who die from food-borne diseases mostly due to diarrhoeal diseases. The report affirms and quantifies the magnitude of what is familiar knowledge. What is disturbing is that these deaths are preventable to a large extent and the illnesses which rob so many of their productivity and well-being can be avoided if all stakeholders are serious about taking preventive measures. The suffering and deaths target the poor and marginalised sections the most.

Nutritionists point to emerging economies—India included—constituting the “hotspots” of food safety concerns. As the Inter­national Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) says in its “2014–2015 Global Food Policy Report,” these economies witness a rapidly growing demand for foods but a weak food governance system. The report also notes that in the poorest countries food-borne diseases cannot be separated from other diseases that are waterborne, vector-borne or due to sheer poverty. IFPRI observes that the widely publicised findings about food inspections, even negative ones (in China), “may be more positive than the situation in India, where no reports on food safety inspection or results are publicly available.”

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