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Russian version

April 7 - World Health Day

The theme of World Health Day 2015 is the food safety. This is due to the fact that pathogenic bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemicals contained in food are responsible for more than 200 diseases, from diarrhea to cancer and cause death of about '2 million people each year, mostly children.

It is well known that access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food is a critical factor for the maintenance of life and health promotion, and on the contrary, unsafe food generates a vicious circle of diseases and malnutrition, which particularly affects infants and young children, the elderly and the sick . Food-born diseases are an obstacle to economic development and create an additional burden on the health system. They cause damage to the national economy, tourism and trade.

This issue is particularly relevant now, since the food supply chains are international. Effective cooperation between governments, producers and consumers of food contributes to food safety.

To reduce the risk of adverse effects from the use of low-quality food WHO has developed five principles of food safety for sellers and consumers in handling and preparing food:

Principle 1: Keep food clean

Principle 2: Separate raw foods from products exposed to heat treatment

Principle 3: Expose products thoroughly cooked

Principle 4: The heat treatment is carried out at the desired temperature

Principle 5: Use safe water and safe raw food.

World Health Day 2015 provides an opportunity to draw the attention of those who work in different government sectors, farmers, producers, retailers, health professionals and consumers on the importance of food safety and on the factof what role each can play to ensure a situation in which every person can feel confident that the products lying in the plate  are safe for consumption.

Major food-born diseases and their causes

Generally, food-born disease isan infectious disease or intoxication caused by bacteria, viruses or chemicals that enter the body through contaminated water or food.

Food-born pathogens can cause acute diarrhea or debilitating body  infections, including meningitis. Chemicals can lead to acute or chronic poisoning diseases such as cancer. Food-born diseases can cause long-term disability and death. The types of unsafe food belong  raw food of animal origin, fruits and vegetables contaminated with feces, and raw shellfish containing marine biotoxins.


Salmonella, Campylobacter and enterohaemorrhagic strain of Escherichia coli are among the most common food-born pathogens, from which every year suffer millions of people. In some cases, the diseases caused by these pathogens are severe and fatal.

The symptoms: fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Among foodrelated to outbreaks of salmonellosis are eggs, poultry meat and other animal products.

Infection with Campylobacter bacterium, mainly occurs as a result of the use of  raw milk, raw or undercooked and not enough heat treated poultry, infected drinking water. Enterohemorrhagic infection caused by Escherichia coliis connected with consumption of unpasteurized milk, undercooked and not enough heat treated meat, as well as raw vegetables and fruits.

Infection caused bythe Listeria bacterium , leads to miscarriage in pregnant women or newborn death. Despite the relatively low prevalence of the disease,its severe and sometimes fatal  nature, particularly for infants, children and the elderly, stands among the most dangerous food-born infections. Sources of Listeria are unpasteurized dairy products and a variety of ready-to-eat meals. This type of bacteria can multiply at low temperatures.

Cholera germ (Vibrio cholerae) enters the human organism with infected water or food. Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting and acute watery diarrhea which may lead to acute dehydration and sometimes death. Cholera outbreaks are associated with food, such as rice, vegetables, millet and a variety of seafood.

The primary means of bacterial infections treatment are antimicrobial drugs, such as antibiotics. Nevertheless, their mismanagement and inappropriate use in human and veterinary medicine has led to the emergence and spread of drug-resistant bacteria, which made antibiotics use ineffective for the treatment of infectious diseases in humans and animals. Resistant bacteria enter the food chain through animals (eg, Salmonella enters the food chain through the chickens).Bacterial resistance to antimicrobials is a major threat to modern medicine.

Viruses. Norovirus infections are accompanied by nausea, severe vomiting, watery diarrhea and abdominal pain. The hepatitis A virus can lead to long-term liver damage and is usually spread through raw or undercooked seafood or  contaminated fruits and vegetables. Often the sources of infection are infected persons working with food.

Parasites. Some parasites, such as fish trematodas are transferred only with food. Others. eg. Echinococcus spp., can be transmitted to humans through food, or contact with animals. Other parasites, such as Ascaris. Cryptosporidium, Entamoeba histolytica or Giardia. enter the food chain through water or soil and can infect raw vegetables and fruits.

Prions. Prions are infectious agents  composed of protein, that cause some neurodegenerative diseases. Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE. Or "mad cow disease") is a prion disease affecting cattle, which is associated with its variety Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).among people

Chemical substances

The greatest threat to the health  are naturally occurring toxins, substances pollutingthe environment.

  Naturally occurring toxins are: mycotoxins, marine biotoxins, cyanogenic glycosides and toxins contained in poisonous mushrooms. Mycotoxins, such as aflatoxin and ochratoksin. may be present in high concentrations in staple foods such as corn or cereals. Prolonged exposure of these toxins can damage your immune system and normal development of the body, increase the risk of cancer.

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) but the substances that accumulate in the environment and in the human body. Well-known examples include dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs), which are unwanted byproducts of industrial production and waste incineration. They are present in the environment throughout the world and accumulate in the animal food chains. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause developmental and reproductive function disorders, immune system damages, hormonal disruptions and cancer.

Heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury) lead to damage of the nervous system and kidneys. Food contamination by heavy metals occurs mainly as a result of contamination of air, soil and water.

In light of these problems  the food producers and food industry workers bear more responsibility for ensuring food safety. Under the conditions under which the product flows mix with high velocity and long-distance, local incidents can quickly grow to international emergencies. Over the last decade we have witnessed major outbreaks of food-born diseases on every continent, the scope of which is often exacerbated by the peculiarities of globalized trade.

As an example  the contamination of infant powdered milk formula with melamine in 2008 (because of which in China suffered 300 000 infants and young children, 6 of them died) and the outbreak of enterohaemorrhagic infections caused by Escherichia coli, in Germany in 2011, which was connected with the consumption of fenugreek sprouts. Cases of infection have been reported in eight countries in Europe and North America, 53 patients died. The outbreak of enterohaemorrhagic infections caused by E.coli, in Germany in 2011 caused damage to producers and farmers in the amount of 1.3 billion US dollars and led to the release of emergency assistance to member countries of the European Union in the amount of 236 million US dollars.

Contamination of food may occur at any stage of the supply chain, and the main responsibility for security lies within the food producers. Nevertheless, in many cases, incidents of food-born diseases, are the result of improper handling of food at home, at catering facilities and at markets. Not all employees of the food industry and consumers understand their role in protecting their own health and the health of the community as a whole and the need, for example, to observe the basic rules of hygiene when buying, selling and cooking food.

Everyone can contribute to ensuring food safety.

Mashenskaya V.S.. head of the information support department of PI" BRCofHEandPH"