Campylobacter is top cause of foodborne illness in Denmark

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

Campylobacter bacteria. © iStock
Campylobacter bacteria. © iStock
Campylobacter continued to be the leading cause of foodborne infections in Denmark last year, according to a recent report.

There were 4,257 cases of Campylobacter illness in 2017, according to a report by the Danish Technical University’s National Food Institute, the National Institute of Public health (Statens Serum Institut) and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

2017 also saw two Campylobacter outbreaks, both related to unpasteurised milk, were recorded and were responsible for making 72 people fall ill.

However, "the true number of cases is estimated to 50,000​, because only a small proportion of cases seek medical care and is registered in the system", ​the report reads.

"The results additionally showed that eating barbecued meat is a risk, but also indicated that environmental factors, mainly contact to water and sand, could play a more significant role in the transmission of Campylobacter than previously assumed," ​the authors write.

Eating fresh strawberries is also a significant independent risk factor, especially for children, they add.

The report, which can be downloaded here​,​ contains burden of disease studies that it says can help enable policymakers and other stakeholders carry out risk management, as they provide a ranking of diseases according to their health impact in the population.

There were also a total of 1,067 reported salmonella infections among the Danish population, which means the number of infections has remained stable over the past seven years.

Around half of these were contracted during travels abroad, with most cases associated with travellers returning from Thailand and Turkey.

Despite the stable numbers, 2017 saw 63 foodborne disease outbreaks compared to 49 in 2016, including double the number of salmonella outbreaks than the previous year.

The increase is presumably because new methods detect more outbreaks​,” says DTU.

In 2017, Statens Serum Institut began using whole genome sequencing to type bacteria from all salmonella patients in Denmark.

 “This is a more accurate method of identifying the bacteria’s DNA and as such, the correlation between patients​ said epidemiologist Luise Müller from the Institute. “When we are able to cluster patients, we can also work in a more targeted way to identify the foods that are making people sick​,”

For domestic cases of salmonella, pork was the worst offender, causing 8.2% of infections. This was followed by imported pork and chicken meat (6.9% and 3.5% respectively).

According to the figures in the report, there were no infections caused by Danish chicken meat last year.

Senior scientific officer Birgitte Helwigh from the National Food Institute said: ”We are pleased that once again we see no registered cases of illness related to Danish chicken meat. In fact, salmonella has not been detected in Danish chicken meat in five out of the last seven years.”

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