These 10 Countries Pose a Higher Risk of Food Poisoning

A new investigative report by the Healthnews research team identified 10 countries with the highest risks of foodborne illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 48 million people in the United States experience food poisoning, and 3,000 die from the illness each year. Most of these illnesses are caused by norovirus, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringens, and Campylobacter.

Some of the foods commonly associated with food poisoning include seafood and shellfish, unpasteurized dairy, eggs, and produce.

Still, virtually any food can pose a threat, depending on how it's handled or processed. What's more, according to the latest Healthnews research report, food poisoning risks can vary by location, and visiting some regions of the world can be riskier than others.

Where are you more likely to get food poisoning?

To determine places with the highest risk of foodborne illness, the research team analyzed 2023 Google search data from 36 countries listed in the New York Times 2024 Travel Guide. The searches were translated into English and the country's native languages and included keywords related to food poisoning and treatments for foodborne illness.

After the analysis, the team found that 10 countries stood out with the most internet searches looking for information about food poisoning.

The top 10 include:

India topped the list with 114 foodborne illness searches per 100,000 internet users. According to the report, food poisoning is the country's second most common cause of infectious disease.

Kenya came in at number two with 102 searches per 100,000 internet users.

Number three is Sri Lanka, with 96 food-related illness searches per 100,000 Google queries. Data from the country's surveillance systems suggests that more food poisonings occur in the Northern, Central, and Eastern provinces.

Indonesia is fourth on the list, with 84 searches per 100,000. The research team suggests ineffective public health systems, subpar food safety practices, and a lack of access to clean water may be contributing factors.

Mexico takes fifth place with 82 people per 100,000 searching for foodborne illness information on Google.

Number six is Egypt, where the most common food poisoning culprits are organophosphate contamination and Salmonella. In this country, 78 per 100,000 internet users typed in food poisoning keywords in 2023.

Singapore comes in at number 7, with pathogens such as Staphylococcus aureus, Salmonella, and Vibrio parahaemolyticus as the primary offenders. In this country, 74 queries per 100,000 Google searches were seeking information on foodborne illness.

Morocco is in eighth place, with 72 searches per 100,000 people. In this region of the world, the most common foods associated with food poisoning are fish and dairy.

The Caribbean — a destination adored by vacationers — is number nine on the list. Data indicates that food-related illness in this region costs the Caribbean economy an estimated $21 million each year. In 2023, sixty-nine searches per 100,000 internet users were about food poisoning.

Finally, El Salvador came in at number 10. In this country, 64 searches per 100,000 were related to foodborne disease. These illnesses are most often caused by norovirus or Salmonella.

Which countries have the lowest risk of food poisoning?

Some regions, such as Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Iceland, had the lowest food poisoning-related searches per 100,000 internet users. Searches were as low as three to 11 in these countries.

The Healthnews research team notes that these countries may have stronger food safety laws, higher standards in food production and handling, and more effective hygiene education and promotion strategies, which may contribute to fewer cases of food poisoning.

How to prevent food poisoning when traveling

According to the CDC, people traveling within the U.S. or abroad can help reduce the chances of food poisoning by avoiding lukewarm food or drinks and instead opting for steaming hot or well-chilled food or liquids.

Travelers should also avoid raw foods and cut fruits and vegetables. The Agency recommends that people wash all whole fruits and veggies in sterilized or bottled water to be safe.

Although tempting, people should consider avoiding food sold by street vendors and dishes made with wild local game.

The CDC notes that dry or packaged foods are often safer choices.

In addition, local tap water, milk, and ice can pose a risk of foodborne illness. So, if traveling to regions with unknown water quality, the agency recommends sanitizing the water by boiling, filtering, or using specific water sanitizing chemicals.

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Karin Goodburn
prefix 1 month ago
Interesting that Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Iceland are mentioned as having the lowest food foisoning-related internet searches when these countries' rates of listeriosis according to the ECDC/EFSA One Health Reports for the last 5 years (2018-22) are respectively (cases per 100k population):

Austria 0.43
Italy 0.37
Switzerland 0.6
Iceland 0.94

Compared with:

EU overall rate 0.49
IE overall rate 0.3
UK overall rate 0.24

Does this study really show lack of consumer awareness of, for example, listeriosis, which has the highest mortality rate of foodborne illness in the EU?