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New EU food agency initiative to tackle foodborne disease

22-Mar-2005

Ongoing steps to reduce the risk of foodborne illness in the European food chain sees the region's umbrella food agency calling for scientists to contribute to solutions.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a call for tenders for "scientific and technical assistance" in relation to collecting, reporting, compiling and analysing data on food-borne outbreaks.

 

According to EFSA, the contract will involve, in particular, identifying the need for information regarding foodborne outbreaks in the European Community "and the construction of a reporting system for results from investigations of food-borne outbreaks."

 

Parallel to the growing complexity, and sheer size, of the Euro 600 billion European food and drink industry are increasing food safety risks that require constant attention, both at a lab and location level.

 

In industrialised countries, the percentage of people suffering from foodborne diseases each year has been reported to be up to 30 per cent.

 

And recent estimates from the US put total annual costs (medical care and lost productivity combined) of the salmonella pathogen at a massive $2.3 billion (€1.85bn).

 

Last year the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) revealed that since 2002 the country had experienced more than 80 outbreaks of Salmonella enteritidis, with 2000 confirmed and an estimated 6000 potential cases: many of which were linked to Spanish eggs used in the catering trade.

 

The UK is still recovering from wide outbreaks of this foodborne pathogen in the 1980s that knocked the local egg industry. Figures now show that the number of cases in England and Wales have nearly halved since this time, dropping from 16,047 cases in 1998 to 9757 cases in 2003; mainly due to industry control programmes, including the vaccination of chicken flocks.

 

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