Listeria infections in the EU were up 19 per cent in 2009, resulting in 270 deaths from listeriosis, according to a new report.
The annual figures on food borne pathogens from European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) gave a mixed picture of food safety progress in Europe.
Listeria infections increased the most in 2009, rising to 1645 confirmed cases. EFSA said 270 people died as a result from listeriosis, representing a 17 per cent fatality rate.
ECDC told FoodProductionDaily.com that work is planned to review existing Listeria controls and assess risk factors.
“At present, the risk of exposure to Listeria is controlled by EU-wide microbiological criteria for restricted levels of Listeria bacteria in ready-to-eat food products.
"However, these criteria are to be reviewed while more studies are needed to assess other factors (like consumption habits of elderly) that may influence on the risk of infection.”
Campylobacteriosis cases in humans were also up in 2009, increasing 4 per cent to 190,566. The pathogen Campylobacter, which is most commonly found in raw poultry meat, can cause diarrhea and fever. It is the most reported disease that is transmitted from animals to humans.
Salmonella success story
More encouragingly, the number of Salmonella infections in humans fell for the fifth year in a row. Salmonellosis cases, which usually involve fever, diarrhea and abdominal cramps, fell 17 per cent in 2009 to 108,614.
John Dalli, Commissioner in charge of Health and Consumer Policy said: “The EU has made great strides in its battle against Salmonella and the consistent fall in the number of cases is testament to the strong, comprehensive measures put in place by the Member States to tackle this disease.”
The joint EFSA and ECDC report said the European Commission reduction targets for Salmonella are most likely to be the main reason for the reduced number of cases.
The 2003 Regulation (EC) No 2160/2003 paved the way for control programmes and targets that made Salmonella a priority.
The figures in the report relate to 2009. EFSA said the figures are released now because they are first collected by member states are then compiled and sent to EFSA before being analysed and collected into a single report.