Experts from the safety watchdog's Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) Panel said that the handling, preparation and consumption of broiler meat may directly account for 20 to 30 per cent of human cases of the disease. It added that between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of cases could be attributed to the chicken reservoir as a whole.
“In Europe, campylobacteriosis is the most common infectious disease transmissible from animals to humans through food and the opinion confirms previous findings that poultry meat appears to be a major, if not the largest, source of human infection”, said the body.
Up to 20 million cases
The panel also estimated that the number of actual cases of human campylobacteriosis is likely to be much higher than officially reported – with not less than 2 million and possibly as high as 20 million cases of clinical campylobacteriosis per year in the EU27.
Professor Dan Collins, BIOHAZ Panel Chair, said: “We need to interpret our conclusions with care since data on sources of Campylobacter are scarce for the majority of Member States and in some cases they are unavailable.”
The group urged that surveillance of the disease, and efforts to quantify unreported cases, be stepped up across all member states in order to improve the accuracy of statistics. The panel said the research was part of a larger body of work due to be delivered later this year.
Campylobacteriosis is generally contracted through ingestion of bacteria originating from contaminated food or contaminated water. The disease which can lead to diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and fever affects children, young adults and the elderly.