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Salmonella Illnesses on Decline in Europe

For six consecutive years, cases of Salmonella infection fell in Europe, while campylobacteriosis remained the most reported foodborne illness, with the number of cases increasing over the five years ending in 2010.

E. coli infections also rose, but there was progress in reducing illnesses caused by Listeria monocytogenes.

That’s a summary from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) annual report on zoonoses and foodborne outbreaks.

Salmonella accounted for 31 percent of the 2010 outbreaks, viruses such as norovirus for 15 percent and Campylobacter 9 percent. Eggs and egg products, mixed and buffet meals and vegetables were mentioned as the main food sources of outbreaks.

The report says that 5,262 outbreak were recorded in the EU in 2010, slightly less than in 2009. The actual number of foodborne illnesses could have been higher, however, because many illnesses are never officially diagnosed.

(Because the report is for 2010, it does not include the 4,000 illnesses and 50 deaths from last year’s E. coli O104:H4 outbreak that began in Germany and was linked to fenugreek sprouts.)

Salmonella, most often found in chicken and turkey meat, was responsible for 99,020 reported illnesses in 2010 in the European Union, compared with 108,618 in 2009. EU control programs to reduce the bacteria in poultry, particularly in laying hens, were credited for the decrease.

The increase in Campylobacter cases, however, indicates a need for similar reduction measures also targeting poultry, EU officials said.

In 2010, 212,064 cases of Campylobacter infection were reported, an increase for the fifth consecutive year with 7 percent more cases than in 2009. Raw poultry meat was most often found to be contaminated.

Illnesses from Shiga toxin-producing E. coli, most often from beef, increased in Europe from 2008 to 2010, with 4,000 cases in 2010.

Infections from Yersinia enterocolitica, a bacterium mostly associated with pork, totaled 6,776 in 2010, a decrease for the fifth straight year. 

Trichinellosis – a parasitic zoonosis – decreased significantly in 2010 (223 cases compared with 748 in 2009) along with a corresponding drop of Trichinella findings in pigs.

Listeria infections showed a slight decrease, with 1,601 confirmed cases in 2010.

EFSA said that next year it will be analyzing the results of an EU-wide baseline survey on Listeria in high-risk, ready-to-eat foods, including smoked fish, heat-treated meats and soft and semi-soft cheeses, to get a better handle on the prevalence of the bacterium in those foods. 

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