Research: Indian food safety funding increases needed to save lives

April 10, 2018

As its middle class grows, India is increasingly working to improve the safety of its food supply. And while food companies take steps to implement and improve, for example, sanitation monitoring programs and similar measures, researchers are looking ahead to figure out how foodborne illnesses will impact the country’s future.

Using a macroeconomic computational model, researchers from the World Health Organization’s Foodborne Disease Epidemiology Reference Group peered into the year 2030 to estimate the number of foodborne illnesses in India. Their guess: 150 to 177 million cases that year, or one out of nine people in 2030’s estimated population. Depending on the assessment method used, this could mean between 58,000 and 70,000 deaths.

This is an increase from 2011, when an estimated 100 million people (or one in 12) were sick with a foodborne illness. Researchers are open about the fact that this may be an underestimation — there’s not enough accurate data out there regarding food safety. India’s current population is around 1.3 billion.

This increase is in part due to growth in the country’s gross domestic product combined with population growth, which is changing the eating tastes of the people. This, in turn, changes the food safety concerns that are most likely to crop up.

Not who you’d expect?

Contrary to what might seem obvious, wealthier households are expected to see higher instances of foodborne illness than poorer families. As many as one in three people from rich, urban homes could fall sick in 2030. This is because homes with more money are more likely to seek out foods considered “luxurious,” like fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. These foods are more likely to contain foodborne pathogens than traditional options are.

The researchers concluded that in order to circumvent the predicted foodborne illness problem, more public funding needs to go to food safety. They argue that an increased focus on food safety would increase the need for skilled-labor workers to provide more services, leading to higher employment in better-paying jobs.

Category: Food Safety