Photo: Mikkel Adsbøl

Research to close knowledge gaps on burden of disease

Wednesday 09 Dec 15


Sara Monteiro Pires
Senior Researcher
National Food Institute
+45 40 21 34 89


Morten Poulsen
Head of Research Group, Senior Researcher
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 76 06

Official statistics on foodborne diseases only show the tip of the iceberg because only a few of the people who get sick from something they have eaten go to see a doctor. Researchers from the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, work to estimate the real burden of disease by correcting for underreporting and underdiagnosis. Their research results provide a solid scientific foundation on which authorities and politicians can prioritize measures aimed at increasing food safety.

There is a big difference between the number of people who get sick from something they have eaten and the number that is recorded in the official statistics annually. The reason may fx be that the sick person does not go to see a doctor, that the doctor doesn’t take a sample to determine the cause of the illness, or that the lab is not able to pinpoint what caused it from the sample. It may also be that symptoms appear only long after the food is eaten.

However, accurate knowledge about the actual number of foodborne disease cases is important for authorities to best decide where to intervene to ensure that consumers have access to safe foods and that as few people as possible become sick from the food they eat. For this purpose, researchers at the National Food Institute are working to estimate the true burden of foodborne diseases.

The ultimate goal is to compare the burden of different foodborne diseases. The researchers do this by calculating how many people actually get sick from different foodborne disease and by estimating the public health impact of these diseases in the population, taking into account the severity and duration of each disease.

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The National Food Institute’s work to estimate the actual burden of foodborne disease is described in further detail in an article in the publication Pan European Networks Science & Technology: Foodborne diseases: under-reported? 

Please also read about the institute’s work to rank three foodborne bacteria according to the burden they impose on society as a whole in a news item from 13 November 2014: The real disease burden of foodborne infections.
17 APRIL 2021