Salmonella infects one in four chickens for meat

By George Reynolds

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Salmonella, Chicken, European union

Salmonella infects one in four chickens in flocks reared for meat,
according to European survey findings published yesterday.

While Swedish poultry was found to be clear of the pathogen, the highest contamination rate was in Hungary at 68.2 per cent, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Tests found that the two most common forms of salmonella responsible for illness, enteritidis and typhimurium, were detected in about 11 per cent of flocks. The survey aims to provide the Commission with a basis to set reduction targets, which are due to by July 2007. The results also provide processors with information on the "widely" varied infection rates between member states, which may prove influential in attempts to remove salmonella from the supply chain of poultry meat used in products. The survey was conducted on commercial holdings with more than 5,000 broilers between 1 October 2005 and 30 September 2006. Statistics for Estonia and Latvia relate to smaller flocks of below 5,000. A total of 7,440 flocks on 6,325 holdings were included in the results of the survey. Faeces taken from the flocks within three weeks before slaughter was due were tested for the salmonella. While results from Luxembourg and Malta were excluded in the published findings, Norway was included following voluntarily participation in the study. A flock was considered positive if salmonella or the specific serovar was detected in at least one of the five samples taken, while a holding was defined to be positive when at least one flock was affected. As well as Hungary, a high prevalence of salmonella was found in Poland at 58.2 per cent, Portugal at 43.5 per cent and Spain at 41.2 per cent. In France, Europe's largest broiler producer, 6.2 per cent of samples tested positive for salmonella, while the second largest, the UK, had a rate of 8.2 per cent. Infection rates in Finland and Norway were low at 0.1 per cent, while Europe's smallest producer in the survey, Estonia, had a two per cent rate. EFSA found the average salmonella infection rate was 23.7 per cent in broiling chicken across Europe. The report follows an EFSA study, published in June 2006, which found about one in five of the EU's large scale commercial egg producers have laying hens infected with the Salmonella spp. pathogen. A study on zoonoses by EFSA in 2005 reported that up to 18 per cent of raw fresh chicken meat samples were contaminated with salmonella. By far the most frequently reported zoonotic diseases in humans are salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis, with the most deadly being listerious, according to a European Commission study published last year. The study found there were 192,703 reported cases of salmonellosis and 183,961 of campylobacteriosis 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 were foodborne and associated with mild to severe intestinal problems. The EU's new zoonoses directive 2003/99/EC became effective 12 June 2004. Reporting according to the new rules started with data collected during 2005. Zoonoses are diseases, which are transmissible from animals to humans. The infection can be acquired directly from animals, or through ingestion of contaminated foodstuffs. The seriousness of these diseases in humans can vary from mild symptoms to life threatening conditions. Within the EU there are 714 million broilers in 282,221 flocks across 24,630 commercial holdings with over 5,000 birds, including those surveyed in Latvia and Estonia, according to EFSA for 2005. On the same basis, Norway adds about nine million broilers to the study figures.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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