Fresh foodsLevels of food borne disease are much higher than reported, underlining the need for improved collaboration among sectors to lower the health risks associated with unsafe food, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe, said organisations significantly underestimate how many people become ill from chemicals in the food chain and from common microorganisms such as Salmonella and Campylobacter.

“This should start alarm bells ringing across the many areas with a stake in our food chain,” Dr Jakab said. “A failure in food safety at any link in this chain, from the environment, through primary production, processing, transport, trade, catering or in the home, can have significant health and economic consequences.”

Current surveillance and reporting systems across the WHO European Region are limited and detect only a small fraction of cases. This underreporting is greater in countries with less advanced laboratory capacities and less developed surveillance systems. Better data are needed to respond effectively to risks.

“Health 2020, the European policy for health and well-being, calls for effective communication, information sharing and joint action domestically and internationally between the public health, animal health and agricultural sectors. This will go a long way towards ensuring safer food on our plates,” Dr Jakab said.