More than 23 million people in the WHO European Region fall ill from unsafe food every year

Although the WHO European Region has the lowest estimated burden of foodborne diseases globally, the report "Estimates of the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases" indicates that more than 23 million people in the Region fall ill from eating contaminated food annually, resulting in 5000 deaths.

Diarrhoeal diseases account for the majority of foodborne illnesses in the WHO European Region, the most common being norovirus infections, which cause an estimated 15 million cases, followed by campylobacteriosis, which causes close to 5 million cases. Non-typhoid salmonellosis causes the most deaths – almost 2000 annually.

Foodborne toxoplasmosis, a severe parasitic disease caught by eating undercooked or raw meat and fresh produce, may cause up to 20% of the total foodborne disease burden and affects more than 1 million people in the Region each year. Listeria infection can result in septicaemia and meningitis and causes an estimated 400 deaths in the European Region annually. People are usually infected with Listeria by consuming contaminated raw vegetables, ready-to-eat meals, processed meats, smoked fish or soft cheeses.

New report on the burden of foodborne diseases

The report is the most comprehensive to date on the impact of contaminated food on health and well-being. The result of a decade of work, it provides estimates of the burden of foodborne diseases caused by 31 agents – bacteria, viruses, parasites, toxins and chemicals. 

Each year, as many as 600 million, or almost 1 in 10 people in the world, fall ill after consuming contaminated food. Of these, 420 000 people die, including 125 000 children under the age of 5 years.