Campylobacter still top EU zoonotic disease: study

by MEAT&POULTRY Staff
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PARMA, ITALY — Although figures varied considerably between European Union member states, Campylobacter infections still topped the list of zoonotic diseases in the EU in 2007 while the number of cases due to Salmonella infections in humans fell for the fourth year in a row. Cases of listeriosis remained at the same level. So states The European Food Safety Authority’s and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s Community Zoonoses Report for 2007, which analyzes the occurrence of infectious diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans.

In 2007, Campylobacter infections were the most-frequently reported zoonotic disease in humans throughout the EU with 200,507 cases compared to 175,561 in the previous year -- an increase of 14.2%. Although the number of Salmonella cases decreased for a fourth successive year, 151,995 people were affected by the bacterium in 2007 compared to 164,011 in 2006. Meanwhile, the number of Listeria infections in humans in 2007 remained at the same level as in 2006 with 1,554 confirmed cases; Listeria also showed the highest mortality rate, especially among vulnerable groups.

"The 2007 Zoonoses Report shows that many bacteria are still being transmitted from animals to our food," said Hubert Deluyker, EFSA’s Director of Scientific Cooperation. "It is good to see that Salmonella is on the decline likely due to the control measures taken along the food chain. Campylobacter and Listeria in food are still of concern and need to be addressed."

"Although tackling Salmonella and Campylobacter infections remains a top priority, we are particularly concerned by the high proportion of deaths amongst older people as a result of infection with Listeria," added Andrea Ammon, ECDC’s Head of Surveillance.

In foodstuffs, Campylobacter was mostly found in raw poultry meat with an average of 26% of samples showing contamination. In live animals, Campylobacter was found in poultry, pigs and cattle.

Meanwhile, poultry and pig meat were reported as the foods most frequently associated with Salmonella, and on average 5.5 % of all fresh poultry-meat samples within the EU was found to be contaminated. Eggs and egg products were also found to be contaminated, while the bacterium was only rarely detected in raw dairy products, vegetables and fruits.

In animal populations, Salmonella was most frequently detected in poultry flocks. In 2007, the Commission launched a new control program against Salmonella in breeding poultry flocks and at the end of that year 15 member states had already met the legal target of 1%, which is set for end 2009.

Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli accounted for 2,905 human infections in the EU. Among animals and foodstuffs, VTEC was most often reported in cattle and bovine meat and very rarely in vegetables. The number of yersiniosis cases in humans in 2007 was 8,792, with the bacterium being found mostly in pigs and pork.

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