Researchers have estimated the burden of foodborne disease caused by certain hazards in two African countries and the role of specific foods.

The work covered illnesses from beef, dairy, poultry meat, and vegetables because of Campylobacter, E. coli, and Salmonella in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso.

Scientists demonstrated how World Health Organization (WHO) data from 2010 can be used with estimates from the Global Burden of Disease study to update foodborne disease figures for Burkina Faso and Ethiopia to 2017. Attribution data from WHO was complemented with another study to estimate the burden from specific foods.

Results show a considerable disease burden associated with Campylobacter, enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC), and non-typhoidal Salmonella. The burden of Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) was lower but scientists said data on incidence in Africa is very limited.

“Developing estimates of the national burden of foodborne disease and attribution to specific food products will inform decision-makers about the size of the problem and motivate action to mitigate risks and prevent illness,” said researchers.

Most fresh animal and vegetable foods in low and middle-income countries (LMICs) are bought in informal markets.

Pathogen-specific trends
Campylobacter caused the most illnesses in both countries, while Salmonella was responsible for the largest number of deaths, according to the study published in the Frontiers journal Sustainable Food Systems.

Children younger than 5 years of age bore three-quarters of the burden of Campylobacter and E. coli in Burkina Faso and two-thirds of this burden in Ethiopia.

In Burkina Faso, the burden of Campylobacter and ETEC increased from 2010 to 2017, while it decreased for Salmonella. In Ethiopia, the burden of all hazards declined.

In both countries, the burden of poultry meat, judged by disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), was larger than that of vegetables. In Ethiopia, the burdens of beef and dairy were similar and lower than that of vegetables. 

Approximately 400,000 people or 1 out of 50 in the population fell ill from consuming poultry meat contaminated by Campylobacter or Salmonella in 2017 in Burkina Faso and about 600 died. The disease burden of Salmonella and ETEC associated with vegetables resulted in about 60,000 cases and 160 deaths.

An estimated 400,000 people, or 1 in 250 of the population, fell ill with Campylobacter or Salmonella infection from beef in 2017 in Ethiopia and 190 died. Dairy products were behind 500,000 cases and 200 deaths. The burden of poultry meat was the highest with 1.8 million cases and 850 deaths.

“Foodborne disease is a global public health problem that disproportionally affects low- and middle-income countries. To support evidence-based food safety decision making, detailed, up-to-date insight on the burden of foodborne disease is required at the national level,” said researchers.

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