Food Safety - A Worldwide Concern

 By: Kathleen Hill
Contaminated food and the pathogens they transmit to humans and animals is a crisis existing not only in underdeveloped countries but all over the world. The impact of food-borne diseases caused by lax or totally neglected food safety precautions leaves many people sick, malnourished, and seriously ill. Economic consequences stemming from contaminated food is calamitous, reducing the monetary value of livestock, crops and items meant for consumption while increasing the cost of medical treatment for those infected. Permanent disability or death of the primary wage earner from food poisoning also has an extremely detrimental influence on the living conditions of the primary wager earner's family.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 70% of the 1.5 billion suffering from common diarrhea is actually caused by biological (bacterial, viral, parasitical, and fungal) contamination of food. Food safety issues in developing countries are often not enforced, and food is processed under the guise of fraudulent practices which reduce the cost of the manufacturing of foodstuffs. Purposefully mis-labeling a product in order to facilitate the buying of foods which are suspect to contamination is a common practice in places where food safety is haphazardly attended to. Unstable to bad economic conditions guarantee these practices will continue, and litigation is not pursued because of poor or non-existent record-keeping.

With the world population estimated to be around 7.5 billion people in the year 2020, and an increase in the number of people flocking to urban areas in developing countries, food safety problems are going to pose an even greater threat to the health of individuals exposed to questionable food handling practices. With more mouths to feed, a heightened concentration in the field of agriculture, such as animal husbandry and increased crop production, will be necessary and food processing methods will be inevitably be structured to overlook or exploit food safety guidelines in order expedite the manufacturing of foods and satisfy the economic needs of certain industries.

Developing countries are also suffering from the effects of rapid urbanization, which has created a desperate need for clean drinking water. Sewage disposal and poorly maintained water sanitation devices are to blame for many outbreaks of food poisoning and other illnesses. Since food sold by street vendors is more affordable than food bought from a store, this type of food is bought and eaten much more frequently. These kinds of unsafe foods, however, lay exposed and unprotected all day in the sun, and are frequently seen covered in flies and mosquitoes. However, with no food safety regulations standardizing such practices, the incidences of food poisoning will continue unabated and the combination of physical, mental, and economic suffering will continue on a widespread scale. The need for the governments and food industries in developing counties to initiate discussions regarding food safety issues is imperative if the contamination of food is to be eradicated.
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