EFSA publishes EU Salmonella data

By Linda Rano

- Last updated on GMT

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published an Opinion
on the contribution of different meat categories to cases of
food-borne Salmonella infections in humans.

The document comes in response to a request from the European Commission for a quantitative risk assessment. The Opinion provides data on Salmonella​ incidence in European countries in recent years, as well as the meat and egg products linked to outbreaks. EFSA highlighted that different reporting methods employed by different countries means that sometimes the data is insufficient to make quantitative estimates of the contribution of meat to human salmonellosis​ across the EU. FoodProductionDaily.com provides a summary of the Opinion below. Salmonella incidence ​In 2005, a total of 170,497 cases of human salmonellosis​ were reported to the Basic Surveillance Network (BSN) from 22 EU Member States (MS). The incidence in the EU was 40.0 per 100,000 population. Generally, there was a decrease in incidence compared to 2004, although Denmark and some east European counties reported an increase. This might be down to improved surveillance. The highest number of cases occurred in the age group 0-4. S Enteritidis​ was the most frequently reported serovar (serovars allow organisms to be classified at the sub-species level). Foodborne sources of Salmonella ​These include a variety of foodstuffs of both animal and plant origin. Transmission typically occurs when organisms are introduced into the food chain via faecal contamination. During cutting and mincing this contamination can be spread into fresh meat cuts and meat preparations. Contamination of raw milk, vegetables and even chocolate can often be traced back to faecal contamination on the farm. Salmonella​ can survive for prolonged periods and contaminate food production areas. Given certain conditions, Salmonellae​ are able to multiply in many foods. Eggs and egg products ​In the EU, among foodborne cases of human Salmonellosis​, eggs and egg products are the most frequently implicated sources. Control of Salmonella​ in the table egg sector is generally by monitoring and control in breeder and layer flocks. Salmonella​ levels reported in fresh eggs, raw egg at processing and at retail have generally been steady (usually below 3 per cent). In the Netherlands in 2007, it was estimated that 22 per cent of Salmonellosis​ cases were because of eggs. Meat ​Meat is also an important source of foodborne Salmonellosis​, with poultry and pork implicated more often than beef and lamb. More specific conclusions about the relative importance of specific raw meat categories such as fresh meat, minced meat, meat products etc. cannot be made at present, said EFSA. Poultry ​In 2005, a number of MS monitored Salmonella​ in broiler meat at different steps in the production line. Sweden, Finland and Norway have reported very low levels of Salmonella​ over the last five years. However, compared with 2004, increased numbers of positive samples were observed at slaughter in Italy and Spain, and at processing in Belgium, and, from previously low numbers, in Denmark. Most countries reported substantial numbers of positive samples; at slaughter up to 9.1 per cent, at processing up to 21.5 per cent (though some MS reported no positives) and at retail up to 18.2 per cent. Of the Salmonella​ outbreaks reported in the EU in 2005 related to meat and meat products 69 out of 179 were linked to broilers/chicken and 12 were linked to turkey. Pork ​In 2005, whilst Salmonella​ positive samples were found in a relatively high percentage of pig meat, 6 of 20 reporting countries found none. At slaughter positive samples ranged from 0 per cent - 9.3 per cent, and at the processing plant from 0 per cent - 18.4 per cent. In 15 MS, Salmonella​ in non-ready-to-eat products ranged from 0.3 per cent - 12.5 per cent and generally low percentages in ready-to-eat products. Data for serovars was incomplete but S Typhimurium​ was the most common. Different consumption patterns are one of the factors that can lead to different exposure in different MS. All countries contained in a table 'Example of meat consumption in the EU (2002)'consumed more pork than beef and sheep, but in varying degrees. Of the Salmonella​ outbreaks reported in the EU in 2005 related to meat and meat products, 11 out of 179 were linked to pig meat. Others ​This survey also suggested that the biggest group linked to Salmonella​ outbreaks was 'Unspecified Meat and Offal'. Six of the reported outbreaks were linked to beef and two were linked to lamb. To view EFSA's Opinion, click here​.

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