Contaminated food: a major cause of diarrhoea and associated malnutrition among infants and young children

Facts Infant Feed. 1993 Apr;(3):1-4.


PIP: An estimated 3.2 million children die annually as a result of diarrheal diseases while hundreds of millions more suffer from frequent episodes of diarrhea and impaired nutritional status. Up to 70% of the 1400 million episodes of diarrhea worldwide in children under age 5 cause this morbidity and mortality may be due to pathogens which can be transmitted through food. Breast milk is the ideal source of nutrients and protection against diarrhea and exposure to foodborne pathogens for infants in their first months of life. As foodstuffs are added to supplement childrens diets at ages 4-6 months, infants increase their potential exposure to contaminants borne in foodstuffs, especially E. coli. Food may become contaminated with nightsoil, polluted water, flies, pests, domestic animals, unclean utensils and pots, food handlers, dust, and dirt. Raw foods may also harbor pathogens or be obtained from infected animals. Making food several hours before eating and storing it at temperatures suitable for the growth of bacteria, and cooking or reheating food insufficiency to reduce or eliminate pathogens are practices which especially place food at risk for being contaminated and consumed. Cooking food thoroughly and eating it as soon as it is cool enough for consumption would therefore control the majority of contaminants in food and a significant number of foodborne episodes of diarrhea. Socioeconomic and cultural constraints, however, often impede such behavior and may be the result of food storages, beliefs or habits, inadequate supplies of safe water and lack of sanitation facilities, shortages of cooking fuel or other facilities for the safe preparation and storage of food, and/or lack of time to prepare food. Little attention has been given to teach mothers and care-givers about food safety. They need to be taught which measures to take to reduce the risk of exposure to foodborne pathogens. Moreover, an integrated approach is called for.

MeSH terms

  • Biology
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child Welfare*
  • Demography
  • Developing Countries*
  • Diarrhea
  • Diarrhea, Infantile*
  • Disease
  • Economics
  • Education
  • Health
  • Health Education*
  • Health Planning*
  • Infant Mortality*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Lactation
  • Milk, Human*
  • Morbidity*
  • Mortality
  • Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Organization and Administration
  • Physiology
  • Population
  • Population Dynamics
  • Pregnancy
  • Risk Factors*
  • Socioeconomic Factors*