The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for experts to contribute to work on the economic impact of foodborne diseases. 

WHO is in the process of updating global estimates on the public health burden of foodborne infections. This will look at patients, deaths, and disability-adjusted life year (DALY) loss from foodborne disease globally, regionally, and nationally.

The first WHO figures on foodborne diseases were published in 2015. In 2018, the World Bank estimated the economic impact of foodborne diseases globally and regionally. The analysis revealed that unsafe food costs low- and middle-income economies $110 billion in lost productivity and medical expenses annually.

At a Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) meeting in May 2022, the group advised WHO to explore estimating the economic impact of foodborne hazards. 

Experts say that public health and economic burden estimates help strengthen political commitments to improve food safety with more effective resource allocation and risk management decisions.

Update to the financial burden
The World Bank and WHO agreed to develop estimates of the economic impact of foodborne diseases based on the updated WHO figures, which are expected in 2025.

The 2018 World Bank publication only included lost productivity. The World Bank and WHO are looking into the feasibility of using a more comprehensive measurement of the economic impact of these diseases. A virtual meeting of experts is planned for early 2024 to study alternative economic measures.

WHO is seeking people with expertise in health economics, particularly in the economic valuation of health outcomes, and those with practical knowledge of the availability and cost of health treatment data in low- and middle-income countries.

Selection of participants will begin on Jan. 8, 2024, and continue until enough suitable candidates are identified.

WHO is also still interested in outbreak data for source attribution of foodborne pathogens as part of work to update foodborne disease estimates.

National outbreak data from public health surveillance will help determine the roles of different sources in foodborne infections. The deadline for submission is Feb. 29, 2024

The principle of source attribution by analysis of outbreak data is to estimate the contribution of different food sources to illness by a pathogen based on the number of outbreaks and outbreak patients caused by each food. The approach will be able to include data on outbreaks caused by simple or single-ingredient foods such as beef and by complex and multi-ingredient items like a hamburger sandwich.

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