Estimating the burden of foodborne diseases in Japan

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Objective To assess the burden posed by foodborne diseases in Japan using methods developed by the World Health Organization’s Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG).Methods Expert consultation and statistics on food poisoning during 2011 were used to identify three common causes of foodborne disease in Japan: Campylobacter and Salmonella species and enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli (EHEC). We conducted systematic reviews of English and Japanese literature on the complications caused by these pathogens, by searching Embase, the Japan medical society abstract database and Medline. We estimated the annual incidence of acute gastroenteritis from reported surveillance data, based on estimated probabilities that an affected person would visit a physician and have gastroenteritis confirmed. We then calculated disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) lost in 2011, using the incidence estimates along with disability weights derived from published studies.Findings In 2011, foodborne disease caused by Campylobacter species, Salmonella species and EHEC led to an estimated loss of 6099, 3145 and 463 DALYs in Japan, respectively. These estimated burdens are based on the pyramid reconstruction method; are largely due to morbidity rather than mortality; and are much higher than those indicated by routine surveillance data.Conclusion Routine surveillance data may indicate foodborne disease burdens that are much lower than the true values. Most of the burden posed by foodborne disease in Japan comes from secondary complications. The tools developed by FERG appear useful in estimating disease burdens and setting priorities in the field of food safety.




Kumagai, Y., Gilmour, S., Ota, E., Momose, Y., Onishi, T., Bilano, V. L. F., … Shibuya, K. (2015). Estimating the burden of foodborne diseases in Japan. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 93(8), 540–549.

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