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Estimating global mortality from potentially foodborne diseases: an analysis using vital registration data

Laura A Hanson1*, Elizabeth A Zahn1, Sommer R Wild1, Dörte Döpfer2, James Scott3 and Claudia Stein4

Author Affiliations

1 Saint Olaf College, Northfield, MN, USA

2 Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI, USA

3 Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Colby College, Waterville, ME, USA

4 World Health Organization Regional Office for Europe, Copenhagen, Denmark

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Population Health Metrics 2012, 10:5  doi:10.1186/1478-7954-10-5

Published: 16 March 2012



Foodborne diseases (FBD) comprise a large part of the global mortality burden, yet the true extent of their impact remains unknown. The present study utilizes multiple regression with the first attempt to use nonhealth variables to predict potentially FBD mortality at the country level.


Vital registration (VR) data were used to build a multiple regression model incorporating nonhealth variables in addition to traditionally used health indicators. This model was subsequently used to predict FBD mortality rates for all countries of the World Health Organization classifications AmrA, AmrB, EurA, and EurB.


Statistical modeling strongly supported the inclusion of nonhealth variables in a multiple regression model as predictors of potentially FBD mortality. Six variables were included in the final model: percent irrigated land, average calorie supply from animal products, meat production in metric tons, adult literacy rate, adult HIV/AIDS prevalence, and percent of deaths under age 5 caused by diarrheal disease. Interestingly, nonhealth variables were not only more robust predictors of mortality than health variables but also remained significant when adding additional health variables into the analysis. Mortality rate predictions from our model ranged from 0.26 deaths per 100,000 (Netherlands) to 15.65 deaths per 100,000 (Honduras). Reported mortality rates of potentially FBD from VR data lie within the 95% prediction interval for the majority of countries (37/39) where comparison was possible.


Nonhealth variables appear to be strong predictors of potentially FBD mortality at the country level and may be a powerful tool in the effort to estimate the global mortality burden of FBD.


The views expressed in this document are solely those of the authors and do not represent the views of the World Health Organization.