PARMA, Italy –Salmonella cases in the European Union in humans decreased by 17% in 2009, marking five consecutive years of decreases, according to the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control’s (ECDC) annual study on zoonoses and foodborne outbreaks in the EU for 2009. Between 2008 and 2009, the number of laying hen flocks infected with
Salmonella also decreased by 9%, the study shows.

Still the most reported zoonotic disease in humans, Campylobacteriosis showed a slight increase with 198,252 cases in 2009 compared to 190,566 in 2008, up 4%. In foodstuffs,Campylobacter, was primarily found in raw poultry meat. In live animals, it was found mostly in poultry, pigs and cattle.

“The fall inSalmonellacases in humans is a great achievement and indicates the control measures put in place by EU member states and the European Commission are working,” said Hubert Deluyker, EFSA’s director of scientific cooperation and assistance.

Reduction targets set by the European Commission to reduce the spread ofSalmonellain poultry, eggs and chicken meat are likely to be the primary reasons for the reduction in human cases, the study stated. In 2009, 17 member states met theirSalmonella-reduction targets for laying hens and that the proportion of EU laying hen flocks infected with the targeted Salmonella types continued to fall — 3.2% in 2009 compared to 3.5% in 2008.

Salmonella, the second most reported zoonotic infection in humans, totaled 108,614 human cases in 2009 compared to 131,468 in 2008. Salmonella also remained the most frequent cause of food-borne outbreaks and was found primarily in chicken, turkey and pig meat.

Meanwhile,Listeriainfections in humans increased 19% in 2009 compared to 2008, with 1,645 confirmed cases.Listeriais known to have a high case fatality rate. In 2009, approximately 270 people died in the EU from listeriosis – a fatality rate of 17% amongst those affected by the disease, the study estimates. It can be found in ready-to-eat food, such as smoked fish and heat-treated meat products and cheeses.

Verotoxigenic Escherichia coli(VTEC) reached 3,573 human disease cases in 2009, up slightly from 2008. Regarding animals and foodstuffs, VTEC was most often reported in cattle and their meat. The total number of human cases ofYersinia enterocolitica, another bacterium primarily found in pigs and their meat, fell to 7,595 in 2009.

In 2009, 5,550 food-borne outbreaks were recorded in the EU, affecting 48,964 people and causing 46 deaths, the study relayed. The most frequently reported causes of food-borne outbreaks wereSalmonella(31% of all outbreaks), viruses (19%) and bacterial toxins (10%). The biggest sources of outbreaks were eggs and egg products, mixed and buffet meals and pork and derived products.