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Campylobacter cases on the rise in Europe

By Melodie Michel , 09-Mar-2012

Related topics: Safety & Legislation, Beef, Pork, Lamb, Poultry, EU

Campylobacter infections in the EU increased for the fifth year in a row in 2010, making a 7% jump to 212,064 cases, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has reported.

The bacteria, found mainly in raw poultry meat, has been “the most reported zoonotic infection in humans since 2005”, EFSA added in its annual report on zoonoses and food-borne outbreaks.

The Authority said the European Commission was currently reviewing the cost and benefits of implementing the control measures EFSA published in April 2011, with the possibility of creating science-based legislation. EFSA expert Frank Boelaert told GlobalMeatNews: “We are the ones who provide the scientific advice and possible reduction measures. We made recommendations to reduce campylobacter risk from farm to carcase level. Based on that, the European Commission can start working on possible legislation.”

Guidelines included using fly screens on farms, reducing the age at which chickens are sent to slaughter and cooking, and irradiating or freezing the meat to reduce the risk by 50% to 90%.

Progress in salmonella prevention

The report hailed the progress made in salmonella prevention, as cases dropped by 9%, marking a decrease for the sixth consecutive year. “The positive progress in the reduction of salmonella cases in humans and poultry is continuing and the majority of member states met the targets set for the reduction of salmonella in different poultry flocks in 2010,” said Claudia Heppner, EFSA’s acting director of risk assessment and scientific assistance.

Boelaert pointed out that salmonella was the only zoonotic disease for which all member states used the same reporting system, allowing for more accurate statistics.

Among the other diseases observed in the report, E.coli cases, which have been increasing since 2008, reached 4,000 in 2010, while trichinella dropped by 70% and listeria showed a slight decrease to 1,601 cases. EFSA is planning to analyse the results of an EU-wide baseline survey on listeria in smoked fish, heat-treated meat products and soft and semi-soft cheeses to understand the factors contributing to its prevalence in these “high-risk” foods.

The EU recorded 5,262 food-borne outbreaks, which caused 25 deaths and affected over 43,000 people, in 2010. The majority of infections came from eggs and egg products, followed by vegetables, while about one in five cases were linked to meat. Boelaert added: “Meat is far behind eggs and vegetables, and the percentage of food-borne diseases found in meat is stable worldwide.”

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