Campylobacter infections in Sweden double in last 5 years

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: ©iStock
Picture: ©iStock

Related tags: Chicken, Microbiology, Sweden

The number of people infected by Campylobacter in Sweden has doubled in the past five years, according to Swedish agencies.

Almost 6,900 cases were reported last year after being infected in the country.

Reasons for this include a large increase in production of chicken meat and consumption during the last couple of years and increased incidence of bacteria at the production stage.

Sampling shows the prevalence of Campylobacter in chicken flocks and the presence of the pathogen in chicken meat was higher in Swedish chickens in 2016 compared to previous years.

Folkhälsomyndigheten (the Public Health Agency), Jordbruksverket (agriculture department), Livsmedelsverket (The National Food Agency) and SVA (National Veterinary Institute) are attempting to prevent and reduce the risk of infection.

Increased chicken demand

Folkhälsomyndigheten said in general data on consumption is not collected nationally but recognized there was a link between fresh Swedish chicken meat and the increase of cases.

The agency told us that everything points toward fresh chicken meat manufactured in Sweden for the higher prevalence.

“Two outbreak studies have been conducted during unusual winter peaks in domestic cases (2014/2015 and 2015/2016) where Public Health Agency of Sweden in cooperation with the National Veterinary Institute (SVA) showed by WGS that the majority of human strains were clearly connected to the strains collected from chicken manufactured in Sweden.

“The industry has a very stressful situation where the market “demands” lots of fresh chicken. And this situation could mean that the high level of biosecurity is hard to maintain.

“It is known that one of the largest chicken producers in Sweden has had a problem in their production with Campylobacter.”

There are no specific microbiological criteria in food for Campylobacter but a consultation by the European Commission on draft regulation to control it during the production of chicken meat in slaughterhouses has recently closed.

Initial success

Swedish chicken producers had succeeded in reducing the prevalence of Campylobacter but a few years ago the trend reversed for reasons that are unclear.

However, the level is still below the EU average.

Procedures to prevent Campylobacter include communication with industry and a surveillance program for chicken.

High levels of biosecurity in previous years have kept Campylobacter at low levels as shown by the surveillance program.

Meanwhile, the incidence of Salmonella is stable with no increase or decrease during the last couple of years in regards to domestic cases.

The country has a specific Salmonella control program and it is rare the pathogen is found in foodstuffs produced in Sweden.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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