I wanted to follow-up to my previous post regarding the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recent announcement that much more research is needed into foodborne pathogens and their overall impact on humans.

Today I received some additional information from James R. Hollyer, Project Manager for the Agricultural Development in the American Pacific (ADAP) Project, regarding steps the WHO is already undertaking.

In 2007, the WHO launched an international initiative to fill in the gaps. The WHO Initiative to Estimate the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases aims to quantify how many people die from or are affected by all major foodborne causes each year. It hopes to report by 2011. The initiative operates through an expert group, the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG), that includes scientists from all regions of the world and all areas of food safety, as well as professionals from policy and regulatory bodies.

Global atlas of disease

FERG plans to collect and summarise existing scientific data on foodborne disease and mortality into a global atlas. It will also train people from developing countries and help them conduct their own national studies to estimate and monitor the burden of disease from unsafe food.

The group invites stakeholders from governmental and non-governmental organisations, industry, consumer groups, donors and scientific media to get involved, open new communication channels and explore how the initiative can best achieve its aims.

The WHO will welcome involvement in this effort to count the millions affected by these entirely preventable diseases. Could you help provide the much-needed epidemiological yard-stick of death and disability against which progress can be measured?

The next FERG stakeholder meeting is scheduled for 20 November, in Geneva, Switzerland. If you are a professional working with development issues, you should have it in your calendar.