According to the most recent WHO figures on the global burden of foodborne diseases each year 600 million people fall ill after eating contaminated foods resulting in 420,000 deaths. Children are the most vulnerable, with 125,000 of those deaths being under the age of five. Foods containing harmful microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, can cause more than 200 different types of illnesses ranging from diarrhoea to cancers. The most common form of illness caused by contaminated foods are diarrhoeal, responsible for 550 million people falling ill every year and leading to 230,000 deaths.
Food contamination not only impacts human health and economic development, but it also can impact seriously on businesses. Food recalls are primarily a public health issue, but they can also cause significant commercial losses with most recalls being due to microbial contamination. According to a joint industry study by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the average direct cost of a recall to a food company is $10m. This does not include costs from brand damage and lost sales. Costs for larger brands may be significantly higher, based on preliminary recall costs reported recently by firms affected.
As the global population grows so we have to make the most of the resources we have. That means cutting back on waste, especially due to contamination. It is estimated that a third of food produced globally for human consumption every year — about 1.3 billion tons — is either lost or wasted. According to Bondi et al (2014), an estimated quarter of this is because of spoilage caused by microorganisms.
This article is available in full in the IFT 2019 issue of Nutraceuticals Now