World prone to food-borne disease outbreaks: WHO

A farmer destroy vegetables at a farm near Hanover, central Germany on May 27, 2011 after suspicion was raised that the vegetables could be contaminated with E.coli bacteria. The world has become more vulnerable to outbreaks of disease caused by contaminated food because of growing global trade, the WHO said Thursday.

The world has become more vulnerable to outbreaks of disease caused by contaminated food because of growing global trade, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Thursday.

Investigating these outbreaks has also become more difficult because food can contain ingredients from around the world and is transported through a complex , top WHO officials said.

"Outbreaks of food-borne disease have become an especially large menace in a world bound together by huge volumes of international trade and travel," said WHO director-general Margaret Chan at a conference in Singapore on improving preparedness against global .

"They are large in their potential in terms of geographical spread often involving multiple countries."

One challenge faced by governments worldwide is how to "reduce the health and of food-borne diseases", Chan said.

She cited an outbreak this year of a new killer E.coli strain, which infected almost 4,000 people and left 51 dead across Europe and caused massive losses to vegetable farmers.

European farm products such as tomatoes, lettuces, courgettes and sweet peppers were withdrawn from the market between late May and the end of June as a result of the disease, while Russia briefly banned EU vegetable imports.

The European Union had blamed the outbreak on fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt, although Cairo denied any responsibility.

"Problems nowadays can arise from any link or kink in a convoluted food chain," Chan said.

WHO assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda said food-borne outbreaks have occurred in the past.

"But what is different now is that food goes all around the world, so if you have something which gets contaminated or infected in one country it can be in 50 countries or 100 countries or 200 countries," Fukuda told reporters on the sidelines of the Singapore conference.

"So the scope of these could be much larger and more complex and affect many more people."

Fukuda said however that while the risks have become higher, the WHO is also working to make sure that authorities are able to deal with the problem.

"It's a kind of a race," he said.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Experts: Seeds tainted by E. coli still out there

Jun 30, 2011

(AP) -- Health experts warned Thursday there could be more E. coli cases across Europe and elsewhere after finding that recent deadly outbreaks were probably linked to contaminated Egyptian fenugreek seeds.

EU bans Egypt seed imports after E. coli outbreak

Jul 05, 2011

(AP) -- Egyptian sprout seeds blamed for a massive and deadly E. coli outbreak are still on the market and were shipped to more European countries than was previously believed, officials said Tuesday, as ...

E. coli outbreak may be traced to Egypt seeds

Jun 30, 2011

(AP) -- European food and disease prevention authorities said Wednesday they are investigating whether the E. coli outbreak in Germany and France may be traced back to fenugreek seeds imported from Egypt either in 2009 or ...

Russia to resume buying Spanish, Danish vegetables

Jul 01, 2011

(AP) -- Russia has lifted a ban on vegetable imports from Spain and Denmark that was put in place amid an E. coli outbreak in Europe, the country's consumer rights watchdog said Friday.

Recommended for you

UN says Syria vaccine deaths was an NGO 'mistake'

5 hours ago

The recent deaths of Syrian children after receiving measles vaccinations was the result of a "mistake" by a non-governmental partner who mixed in a muscle relaxant meant for anesthesia, a spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general ...

First US child dies from enterovirus D68

5 hours ago

A child in the northeastern US state of Rhode Island has become the first to die from an ongoing outbreak of a respiratory virus, enterovirus D68, health officials said Wednesday.

US Ebola patient had contact with kids: governor

5 hours ago

A man who was diagnosed with Ebola in virus in Texas came in contact with young children, and experts are monitoring them for any signs of disease, governor Rick Perry said Wednesday.

UN worker dies of suspected Ebola in Liberia

6 hours ago

The United Nations mission in Liberia announced on Wednesday the first suspected victim among its employees of the deadly Ebola epidemic ravaging the impoverished west African nation.

User comments