Salmonella contamination found in 3% of egg imports

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Salmonella European union

About one box of eggs out of every 30 imported into the UK tests
positive for salmonella,according to figures released yesterday by
the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The food regulator tested 1,744 boxes of six eggs or more during March 2005 and July 2006. Salmonellacontamination on the egg shell was found in 157 box samples, with a high proportion originating fromSpain. Out of the total sample, 10 boxes also contained salmonella inside the egg. Salmonella enteritidis was the mostcommon type of salmonella found.

The FSA calculates that about 3.3 per cent of imports from other EU member countries arecontaminated with Salmonella, once the sample results are weighted using egg import figures provided bycustoms.

The FSA sampling emphasises the need for some EU members to take more steps in bringing downsalmonella contamination in poultry and eggs. In August the European Commission in August set targets for member states to meet in reducing the presence of Salmonella in poultry, and has proposed trade bans on eggs from flocks with persistent high levels of the pathogen.

The Commission has also proposed compulsory vaccination in countries with a high prevalence of contaminated flocks.Andrew Wadge, the FSA's director of food safety, said the UK vaccination programme has beensuccessful in reducing levels of Salmonella.

"The vast majority of eggs we eat in the UK are salmonella-free,"​ he said. "However,this survey shows that problems with salmonella in eggs have not gone away."

About 10 per cent of eggs sold in the UK are imported. Most of these are used in the cateringtrade.

The UK sampling study tested eggs collected from eight different countries across Europe, with two-thirds of the eggs collectedoriginating from Spain. Eggs from Spain also had the highest rate of contamination, with an estimated one in everyeight boxes testing positive. Most of the contaminated eggs came from just three farms in Spain,stated the FSA.

The only other country with sufficient numbers of contaminated samples to estimate prevalence wasFrance, with a contamination rate of about one in 170 boxes.

The FSA's findings are supported by a survey published this summer by the European Food Safety Authority(EFSA). The EU-wide survey found Spain had the highest highest prevalence of Salmonella on its egglaying farms.

"The findings help provide an indication of where contamination is occurring, and how best to target interventions to reduce salmonella problems in theUK,"​ the FSA stated.

Following investigations of food poisoning outbreaks carried out by the Health Protection Agencyduring the three years to 2004, the FSA took steps to protect consumers from salmonella in Spanish eggs.

The Agency issued specific guidance to caterers on the safe handling and cooking of eggs, advising thatall eggs from Spain should be heat-treated before use.

"This action has been effective, with a sharp fall in the number of outbreaks of salmonella associated with Spanisheggs,"​ the FSA stated. "Since the EFSA survey, the agency has met with both the EC and the Spanishauthorities to discuss the actions they are taking."

The release of the FSA findings marks a bad week for the egg market. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs(Defra) is investigating whether to file prosecutions on egg suppliers who are alleged to beillegally labelling non-free range ones as free range.

By far the most frequently reported zoonotic diseases in humans are salmonellosis andcampylobacteriosis, with the most deadly being listerious, according to an European Commission studypublished last year.

The study found there were 192,703 reported cases of salmonellosis and 183,961 ofcampylobacteriosis cases reported during 2004 in the EU's 25 member states.

The cases are out of a total of 400, 000 human cases of zoonoses reported. Most of the cases werefoodborne and associated with mild to severe intestinal problems.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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