Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) initiative to estimate the global burden of foodborne diseases established the Foodborne Diseases Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) in 2007. In addition to global and regional estimates, the initiative sought to promote actions at a national level. This involved capacity building through national foodborne disease burden studies, and encouragement of the use of burden information in setting evidence-informed policies. To address these objectives a FERG Country Studies Task Force was established and has developed a suite of tools and resources to facilitate national burden of foodborne disease studies. This paper describes the process and lessons learned during the conduct of pilot country studies under the WHO FERG initiative. Findings: Pilot country studies were initiated in Albania, Japan and Thailand in 2011 and in Uganda in 2012. A brief description of each study is provided. The major scientific issue is a lack of data, particularly in relation to disease etiology, and attribution of disease burden to foodborne transmission. Situation analysis, knowledge translation, and risk communication to achieve evidence-informed policies require specialist expertise and resources. Conclusions: The FERG global and regional burden estimates will greatly enhance the ability of individual countries to fill data gaps and generate national estimates to support efforts to reduce the burden of foodborne disease.
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