Press Release WHO/24
16 February 1998
DIRECTOR-GENERAL SAYS FOOD IMPORT BANS ARE INAPPROPRIATE FOR FIGHTING CHOLERA
The World Health Organization (WHO) has not documented any outbreak of cholera resulting from commercially imported food, and this despite the fact that at least of 50 countries in the world have been affected by epidemic or endemic cholera each year since 1961, the WHO Director-General, Dr Hiroshi Nakajima, has stated in a Note Verbale.
"Consequently, the placing of embargoes on the importation of food such as seafood, fresh water fish and vegetables is not an appropriate course of action to prevent the international spread of cholera, and can represent an additional burden on the economy of the affected countries,"Dr Nakajima states.
A Note Verbale is a formal WHO document sent by the Director-General to Member States. The Director-General felt it indispensable to clarify the potential of the bacterium which causes cholera, Vibrio cholerae 01, to be transmitted to humans via food after several countries recently placed an embargo on the import of fresh fish from a number of cholera-infected countries.
Cases of cholera have occurred occasionally as result of eating food, usually seafood, transported across international borders by individual travellers, but WHO has never documented an outbreak of cholera resulting from commercially imported food, the Director-General emphasized. The foods that cause the greatest concern to importing countries are seafood, freshwater fish, and vegetables that may be consumed raw.
The World Health Organization believes that the best way to deal with food imports from cholera-affected areas is for importing countries to agree, with the food exporters, on Good Hygienic Practices which need to be followed during food handling and processing to prevent, eliminate or minimize the risk of any potential contamination and to set up arrangements to obtain assurance that these measures are adequately carried out.
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