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From the Surgeon General
April 12, 2000

Food Safety: A Growing Global Health Problem

JAMA. 2000;283(14):1817. doi:10.1001/jama.283.14.1817

In the last decade, food safety has emerged as a significant global issue with public health and international trade implications. All people need nutritious and safe food if they are to be healthy and contribute to family and community welfare and national economic and social development.

Foodborne illnesses associated with microbial pathogens or other food contaminants are a serious health threat in developing and developed countries. Outbreaks of such illnesses can spread rapidly and transnationally, and disproportionately affect children and the elderly. About 1.5 billion global episodes of diarrhea occur annually, mainly in developing countries, resulting in 3 million deaths among children less than 5 years of age. The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that 70% of diarrheal episodes are caused by biologically contaminated food.

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