What are the Foodborne Diseases?

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : May 31, 2022, 6:31

Foodborne Disease (also known as food poisoning or food poisoning) is any ailment caused by eating contaminated food that has been infected with harmful bacteria, viruses, or parasites.

The financial costs of foodborne sickness can be devastating to people, food industries, and a country's reputation. Globally, Foodborne Diseases are still uncontrolled, and outbreaks can result in health and economic losses. Unhygienic techniques in food cultivation, harvesting, and preparation are the root reasons.

Foodborne Diseases - Overview

According to the World Health Organization, food contaminated with germs, viruses, parasites, or other dangerous substances has been linked to at least 200 ailments. Food poisoning has a negative influence on the public healthcare system and the economy, as tourism and trade are interrupted.

Contamination of food can happen anywhere and at any stage of the food production cycle. It can also get contaminated during food delivery or while you consume it, which is the cause of most Foodborne Diseases.

Foodborne Diseases are generally gastrointestinal. However, some of them can also take the form of neurological or cardiac issues. One typical example of foodborne disease is diarrhoea, which is caused due to food poisoning.

Causes of Foodborne Diseases

There are different causes of Foodborne Diseases. Foodborne Diseases or sickness is caused by sloppy handling, preparation, or storage of food. It's also possible that a mix of all three will occur. Handwashing is widely accepted in the medical community as one of the best techniques to avoid foodborne illness.

Some of the pathogens that are responsible for Foodborne Diseases are -


Bacteria is the most prevalent cause of food poisoning. Bacterial infections were considered to be more common since these pathogens were not being monitored. Symptoms of bacterial infections usually do not appear until 12 to 72 hours after consuming contaminated food.


Most foodborne parasites are zoonotic, meaning they are spread from animals to people. The symptoms of bacterial and viral foodborne illnesses are nearly identical.

The following are some examples of well-known dietary parasites:

  • Platyhelminthes
  • Nematode
  • Protozoa

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In affluent countries, viral infections account for at least one-third of all food poisoning episodes. Within 1 -3 days of intake, the effects of viral foodborne illnesses are visible.

The following are some examples of well-known foodborne viruses:

  • Norovirus
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis E
  • Rotavirus

Natural Toxins

There are natural poisons in a lot of foods. Plants are primarily dangerous rather than animals (the poisonous type is uncommon). Plants use poisons and noxious substances like sulphur compounds in garlic and onions as passive defence mechanisms. Toxicities in other plant-based foods, such as mushrooms, are usually fatal to people and animals equally.

Some plants contain harmful chemicals in big concentrations yet are medicinal in little doses.

  • Cardiac glycosides are present in foxglove.
  • Conium, a toxin found in hemlock, has therapeutic properties.
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Initiatives taken by the WHO

The World Health Organization has aided member countries in developing their ability to detect, manage, and prevent foodborne threats.

Foodborne Diseases are a component of Sustainable Development Goal 3 and are critical to WHO's efforts.

The World Health Organization has also published a 'Five Keys to Safer Food' guidebook to help people better prepare for foodborne illnesses. It also includes instructions on how to process, handle, and eat food to prevent the spread of foodborne illnesses.

Foodborne Diseases are still a significant problem in India as they affect millions of people. Therefore, it is advisable to take care of your food. It would help if you also tried to wash your hands before every meal.

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FAQs on Foodborne Diseases

Q.1. What are the four major causes of Foodborne Diseases?

The four major causes of Foodborne Diseases are:

  • Viruses
  • Bacteria
  • Parasites
  • Natural Toxins

Q.2. Name some parasites that are known to cause Foodborne Diseases?

Some parasites that cause Foodborne Diseases are:

  • Protozoa
  • Nematode

Q.3. How much do Foodborne Diseases cost India every year?

The cost of Foodborne Diseases is around 15 billion USD annually.

Q.4. Which organisation has WHO collaborated with to fight the problem of Foodborne Diseases?

The WHO has partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organisation to create Codex Alimentarius, which fights the problems of food standards, etc.