Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Agrilinks Releases Food Safety Hazard Factsheets

The factsheets in the sidebar to the right provide a snapshot of several key foodborne disease (FBD) causing agents (chemical and biological) commonly found in developing countries. The factsheets provide a description of the agent, major food sources, impact on human health and how to manage toxicity. These are a useful tool for those looking for a quick summary of some of the leading FBD causing agents.

These factsheets were developed by the USG Food Safety Working Group in conjunction with the Food Safety Network (FSN), a U.S. Government interagency partnership to help build food safety capacity worldwide.


Food safety is an important public health concern globally and particularly in developing countries where food standards, principally within local/informal market systems, are more lax, resources are fewer, potential contaminants are abundant and human and financial capital ability are less. Food is a significant pathogen transmitter, particularly in foods such as meat, milk, fish, eggs and fresh fruits and vegetables. In developing countries these foods are primarily produced by smallholder farmers and sold in local, informal wet markets. These foods, which have the potential to provide significant nutrition, can also be the most dangerous in terms of foodborne disease (FBD) potential[1].

In 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) released the first significant assessment of the world’s global health burden[2] from 31 hazards of foodborne diseases, highlighting their devastating health burden, similar to malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis[3]. The report highlighted that the most vulnerable (98%) were within developing countries and that children under the age of five accounted for 40 percent of those who suffer from foodborne diseases and one-third of foodborne disease deaths.[4] It further underlined that of the 1.5 billion cases of diarrhea worldwide, close to 70 percent were due to biologically contaminated food[5] and that mycotoxins and foodborne parasites were more prevalent in developing countries than in developed ones[6].

The fragmented structure of the food sector in developing countries compounds food safety risks. The majority of the actors in these food systems are small-scale actors who produce, process, sell and operate informally, which is challenging to monitor. FBDs also play a role beyond health and affect entire economies and societies, including food exports, tourism, livelihoods and overall economic potential.

[1] https://safefoodfairfood.ilri.org/food-safety-in-informal-markets/ (accessed January 15, 2018)

[2] World Health Organization, WHO Estimates of the Global Burden of Food Borne Diseases, 2015.

[3] Grace, D., White Paper, Food safety in developing countries: research gaps and opportunities, ILRI V. 22 March 2017

[4] Ibid

[5] World Health Organization, WHO, Estimates of the Global Burden of Food Borne Diseases, 2015.

[6] Ibid