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Campylobacter cases in humans on the rise, EFSA

By Jane Byrne , 20-Jan-2009
Last updated on 20-Jan-2009 at 15:32 GMT

Campylobacter infections still topped the list of zoonotic diseases in the European Union while the number of cases of Salmonella infections in humans fell for the fourth year in a row, according to a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Zoonotic diseases are animal diseases that cross over to humans, known as zoonoses.

EFSA’s annual community zoonoses report for 2007 highlights that while food safety measures have significantly reduced instances of Salmonella affecting humans, more attention is needed to tackle Campylobacter and Listeria.

The report found that there were 200,507 cases of Campylobacter across the bloc in 2007 compared to 175,561 in the previous year, an increase of 14.2 per cent.

Listeria concerns

The report, published in association with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), also revealed that cases of listeriosis remained at the same level as in 2006 with 1,554 confirmed cases; however, the study reveals that Listeria also showed the highest mortality rate, especially among vulnerable groups.

“We have noted a high proportion of new born babies among the cases of listeriosis. ECDC is working closely with EFSA in a joint effort to find out more about the transmission of Listeria infections and what prevention measures can be taken to reduce the number of cases and deaths,” said ECDC’s head of surveillance, Andrea Ammon.

Food contamination

Results showed some cases of Listeria above the legal safety limit in ready-to-eat foods, most often in smoked fish and other fishery products, followed by meat products and cheese.

The report notes that in foodstuffs, Campylobacter, which generally causes diarrhoea, cramps and fever in humans, was mostly found in raw poultry meat with an average of 26 per cent of samples showing contamination.

Poultry and pig meat were reported as the foods most frequently associated with Salmonella, and on average 5.5 per cent 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 live animals, Campylobacter was found in poultry, pigs and cattle, while Salmonella was most frequently detected in poultry flocks, according to EFSA’s report.

The EFSA report analysed the occurrence of zoonoses and zoonotic agents in 27 EU member states as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

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