Relatively minor gastrointestinal illnesses can be serious, even fatal, for people from risk groups including small children, pregnant women, very old people or people with weakened immune systems, prompting a reminder that kitchen hygiene is of vital importance.

In an effort to reduce the number of foodborne infections, the Member States of the European Union submit data on foodborne outbreaks every year to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The agency reports that food consumed in private homes was the source of 40 percent of the European outbreaks in 2016.

The recently released EFSA report on zoonoses — diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals — and foodborne outbreaks in Europe in 2016 showed that 205 of the 521 “strong-evidence” outbreaks were caused by the consumption of food in private households. The next highest category were outbreaks caused by food in restaurants, etc., with 133 identified. Communal catering facilities, such as lunchrooms in schools, nursing homes and hospitals were found to be responsible for 87 outbreaks.

Outbreak investigations showed that the major sources of disease were meat and meat products, in particular poultry meat, which accounted for 126 outbreaks. Mixed food and buffet meals were responsible for 85 outbreaks, eggs and egg products for 72 outbreaks, fish and fisheries for 70 outbreaks, and milk and milk products for 45 outbreaks.

Although vegetables, fruits, cereals, sprouted seeds, herbs and spices and their products made a much less significant contribution to the outbreak situation in Europe with a total of 34 outbreaks, they should not be ignored, according tot the report..

Overall, Salmonella was the dominant pathogen reported by the EU Member States.

The risk of food-borne infections can be minimized through consistent compliance with the rules of good kitchen hygiene, according to the report.

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