Foodborne diseases

The epidemiology of foodborne diseases is rapidly changing as newly recognized pathogens and well recognized pathogens increase in prevalence or become associated with new kinds of food. Different factors contribute to these changes, one being the fluctuation in ambient temperature (103). The pattern is often seasonal, with cases of foodborne disease peaking in the summer months. Another risk factor is incorrect food-related behaviour, such as inadequate refrigeration, the use of unsafe raw materials and inadequate handling (103). However, inappropriate food-related behaviour combined with warmer springs and summers and milder winters may contribute to the increasing incidence of foodborne diseases.

A study of reported cases of foodborne illness in the United Kingdom for the period 1982-1991 found a strong relationship between incidence and temperature in the month preceding the illness, but not between rates of foodborne illness and temperature in the month in which illness occurred (104). This relationship was subject to a threshold effect: below 7.5 °C no relationship was observed but above this temperature the relationship was very strong. Assuming maintenance of current systems, it would appear that the incidence of food poisoning will rise in the United Kingdom during the next half century in response to temperature change. Increases in cases of food poisoning are estimated to be between 5% and 20% per month by 2050, with the highest proportional monthly increases predicted to occur in spring and autumn (104).

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