Foodborne disease hazards and burden in Ethiopia: A systematic literature review, 1990–2019


Background: Foodborne disease (FBD) affects millions of people each year, posing a health burden similar to malaria, tuberculosis or HIV. A recent World Bank study estimated the productivity losses alone attributed to unsafe food within Africa at $20 billion in 2016, and the cost of treating these illnesses at an additional $3.5 billion. Ethiopia faces multiple food safety challenges due to lack of infrastructure and basic pre-requisites for food safety such as clean water and environment, washing facilities, compounded by limited implementation of food safety regulations, and a lack of incentives for producers to improve food safety. A consolidation of our understanding and evidence of the source, nature and scale of FBD in Ethiopia is needed to inform policy and future research. We performed a Systematic Literature Review (SLR) of publications on FBD occurrence in Ethiopia including hazard presence and impact.

Method: The SLR followed Cochrane and PRISMA guidelines. We searched PubMed and CAB-Direct for relevant publications between 1990 and 2019 (inclusive). Observational studies and reviews were included. Two reviewers screened titles and abstracts, and retained publications were reviewed in full for quality and data extraction.

Result: In total 128 articles met the inclusion criteria. Most articles focused on the identification of biological hazards in food. High levels of microbial contamination in different food value chains were often found in the small, ad hoc, observational studies that dominated the literature. Raw milk (22/128, 17.0%) and raw beef (21/128, 16.4%) were the most studied food products. Foodborne (FB) parasites were often found at higher rates in food than bacterial and viral pathogens, possibly due to differences in ease of identification. High levels of bacterial contamination on the hands of food handlers were widely reported. There were no reports on the incidence of human FBDs or resulting health and economic impacts.

Conclusion: Our findings reflect existing concerns around food safety in Ethiopia. A lack of substantial, coordinated studies with robust methodologies means fundamental gaps remain in our knowledge of FBD in Ethiopia, particularly regarding FBD burden and impact. Greater investment in food safety is needed, with enhanced and coordinated research and interventions.


Gazu, L., Alonso, S., Mutua, F., Roesel, K., Lindahl, J.F., Amenu, K., Sousa, F.M., Ulrich, P., Guadu, T., Dione, M., Ilboudo, G., Knight-Jones, T. and Grace, D. 2023. Foodborne disease hazards and burden in Ethiopia: A systematic literature review, 1990–2019. Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems 7: 1058977.


  • Gazu, Lina
  • Alonso, Silvia
  • Mutua, Florence K.
  • Roesel, Kristina
  • Lindahl, Johanna F.
  • Amenu, Kebede
  • Sousa, F.M.
  • Ulrich, P.
  • Guadu, T.
  • Dione, Michel M.
  • Ilboudo, Guy S.
  • Knight-Jones, Theodore J.D.
  • Grace, Delia