New Delhi: The government, which does not have data on foodborne diseases, is facing the challenge of putting in place a surveillance system that can help identify and investigate outbreaks due to lack of labs and health professionals in the field of Epidemiology.
"The present challenge is surveillance of foodborne diseases. We do not have enough labs and Epidemoilogists in the country at the district level to investigate such diseases," said Anil Kumar, Head of Epidemoilogy Division at National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
He was speaking at an event organised by World Health Organisation (WHO) that announced 'food safety' as theme of this year's World Health Day on April 7.
Stating that the government does not have exact figures on foodborne diseases in the country, Kumar said the only recent data on foodborne diseases was collected under the Integrated Disease Surveillance Project (IDSP), which reported 306 disease outbreaks due to food contamination in 2014.
He also said that NCDC, under the agesis of Health Ministry, is currently running a surveillance programme to detect foodborne diseases on a pilot basis in two districts each in Tamil Nadu and Gujarat since October 2013.
Asked about the outcome of the pilot project, he said, "Work is still going one. We are yet to see the outcome. It takes time as it is not easy to monitor and detect diseases".
He, however, said based on the outcome of the pilot project NCDC will prepare a vision document and expand lab-based surveillance to other parts of the country in phased manner.
Talking about 'food safety' as theme if this year's World Health Day, WHO India official Asheena Khalakdina said around 2 million people around the globe are killed annually due to food and water borne diseases.
There is no India specific data on foodborne illnesses, but policy makers should have reliable surveillance to address such disease outbreaks, she said, adding that the WHO campaign aims to spur governments to improve food safety and encourage consumers to ensure the food on their plate is safe.
Khalakdina said that food can be unsafe at various levels from 'farm to plate'. And unsafe food can lead to various health problems like dairrhoeal disease, viral disease, reproductive and developmental problems, cancers.