4,700 people die each year in Europe by spoiled food. How to protect yourself

Food poisoning is in the mildest case only unpleasant: a few days nausea and vomiting diarrhea, then the thing is eaten. But contaminated food can also have far more serious consequences - even death. There are also billions of euros worth of economic damage.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is taking World Food Safety Day this Friday as an opportunity to raise awareness of this issue. According to the WHO, more than 400,000 people die each year after eating spoiled food. Every tenth person becomes ill once a year by eating.

The food is therefore contaminated with bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances. The most common causes of food poisoning, according to WHO diarrhea. First and foremost are noroviruses, which are responsible for the majority of non-bacterial diarrhea. This is followed by pathogens of the bacterial genus Campylobacter as well as Salmonella and Listeria.

The problem is by no means limited to developing and emerging countries: every minute, according to WHO estimates, 44 people in Europe - over 23 million a year - suffer from contaminated food. About 4700 Europeans die from it. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, the real numbers are likely to be much higher.

According to the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) , an estimated 400,000 people a year suffer from vomiting diarrhea caused by Noroviruses.

It is particularly small children and the elderly and pregnant women who are likely to have serious consequences of food contamination.

WHO wants to raise awareness of the hazards of contaminated food, with governments, producers, transporters and consumers. For every euro invested in education on how to safely produce and store food, ten euros could be saved, because fewer people would get sick and leave the workplace, according to the WHO. It estimates the productivity loss from such failures in low- and middle-income countries at $ 95 billion a year.

Wash, fry, store properly

While individuals have little impact on food producers and supply chains in the short term, according to experts, there are five simple rules that can be used to avoid many diseases, especially in developed countries:

  • Pay attention to hygiene to avoid contamination (wash hands and food thoroughly, keep kitchen utensils clean)
  • It is important to separate raw and cooked foods (for example, serve ready-to-roast grills on clean plates).
  • Roast food completely or cook
  • Store food at suitable temperatures
  • Only use clean water and safe food


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