Food poisoning, a common outbreak in 2017


eMediNexus    08 January 2018

Afshan Yasmeen



Incidence high in areas where food is cooked in bulk

Recent data put out by the Union Health Ministry’s Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP) has indicated that food poisoning is one of the commonest outbreaks reported in 2017. This is apart from acute diarrhoeal disease (ADD).

According to the data, 312 of the 1,649 outbreaks reported till the third week of December 2017 were due to ADD and 242 were due to food poisoning.

The IDSP has interpreted that the incidence of ADD and food poisoning is high in places where food is cooked in bulk, such as canteens, hostels and wedding venues.

Same trend

A.C. Dhariwal, Director of the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the nodal agency under the Union Health Ministry that documents outbreaks and brings out data under its disease surveillance programme, told The Hindu that the trend had been the same over many years.

“It is not just this year. Acute diarrhoeal disease and food poisoning have been common outbreaks since 2008. This is followed by chickenpox and measles,” Dr. Dhariwal said.

Food poisoning, also called food-borne illness, is caused by eating contaminated food. Infectious organisms including bacteria, viruses and parasites or their toxins are the most common causes.

Dr. Dhariwal said it was important to follow safety measures and maintain hygiene while handling food. “It is a matter of concern for all as food poisoning outbreaks have increased from 50 in 2008 to 242 in 2017. Similarly, ADD cases have increased from 228 in 2008 to 312 in 2017,” he said, quoting the IDSP data.

Overall mortality

Pointing out that the increase in the number of cases was due to better and increased reporting of cases, he said the good thing was that the overall mortality was not alarming.

K.K. Aggarwal, who recently stepped down as the national president of the Indian Medical Association, said infectious organisms or their toxins could contaminate food at any point of processing or production.

“Contamination can also occur at home if food is incorrectly handled or cooked,” he said.

“While it is known that raw meat, poultry and eggs can also harbour diseases, in recent years most outbreaks of food-borne illnesses have been due to contaminated fresh fruits and vegetables,” he said.

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