Food safety

Foodborne Disease: A Focus for Health Education, 2000

ISBN: 92 4 1561963

Available in hard copy from


Provides a guide to the education of food handlers and consumers as an effective strategy for reducing the enormous illness and economic losses caused by foodborne disease. Addressed to policy-makers as well as food safety managers in public and private sectors, the book responds to mounting concern over the increase in the incidence of foodborne disease, including outbreaks caused by new or newly recognized pathogens. With this concern in mind, the book presents the facts, figures, and practical examples needed to understand both the links between food and disease and the many reasons why health education is one of the best approaches to prevention.

Noting that food safety issues rarely receive adequate priority in public health programmes, the book also performs a persuasive function, aiming to help policy-makers understand the costs of food contamination and the benefits of prevention. Throughout the book, numerous case studies of recent outbreaks are used to illustrate the wide range of factors - from errors of preparation and storage to changes in the complexity of the food chain - that contribute to foodborne disease and offer opportunities for prevention.

The book has five chapters. The first and most extensive chapter provides a detailed explanation of the nature of foodborne diseases, global trends in their occurrence, health consequences, economic implications, reasons for the emergence of new pathogens, and factors affecting prevalence. The distinct problems of industrialized and developing countries are considered separately. Chapter two, on health education, gives ten reasons why health education in food safety is both necessary and effective. The chapter also uses experiences from industrialized and developing countries to show why a comprehensive and well-funded regulatory system alone cannot prevent foodborne disease.

Against this background, chapter three addresses the complexity of behaviours that affect food safety and describes a range of scientific approaches that have been used to target specific behaviours for change. The chapter also describes the HACCP system and explains how five of its seven principles can be applied in health education. The remaining chapters use initiatives from several countries to suggest strategies and partners for educational programmes, and offer guidance on the practical design, planning, and implementation of educational programmes.

Of particular value is a 46-page annex which sets out, in tabular form, key information for 31 foodborne diseases caused by bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Each disease is profiled in terms of its causative agent, incubation period, symptoms and sequelae, duration of illness, source or reservoir of the etiological agent, mode of transmission, frequently implicated foods, and specific control measures appropriate for food service establishments and consumers. The book concludes with a guide to effective risk communication aimed at mitigating public concern about food safety issues.