Denmark found Salmonella in 2.7 percent of chicken flocks that lay eggs last year which is above the limit set by the European Commission to qualify for special conditions.

Fødevarestyrelsen (The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration) found Salmonella in 12 out of 454 tested chicken flocks that supply eggs to consumers in 2018. This compares to three positive flocks out of 446 in 2017 and out of 426 in 2016. Salmonella was not found in tested flocks in 2015.

A common source for the increase has not been revealed but contributing factors include insufficient biosecurity at some producers and the warm summer that might have stressed animals and reduced their immune system.

Fødevarestyrelsen is following the situation closely and remains confident it will succeed in reducing the Salmonella prevalence to below 2 percent this year.

Annette Perge from Fødevarestyrelsen said there is no indication that the increase in positive layer flocks is reflected in the number of human Salmonella cases.

“According to the Danish control program for Salmonella, the table egg production layer flocks should be sampled for Salmonella every second week. The sampling method is two pair of sock samples (feces samples) pooled to one sample,” she told Food Safety News.

“By this intensive sampling regime infected layer flocks will be quickly detected and from the time a positive test result is available eggs from the flocks must not be marketed as table eggs. These eggs should either be destroyed or heat treated in an authorized egg production plant.”

Since 2012, when Denmark received special status for Salmonella in consumer eggs, the proportion has been below two percent. This is the limit set by the EU for a country to have such a special status.

This status means the country can reject foreign eggs if they come from flocks not tested and free of all types of Salmonella. But the proportion of Danish flocks with Salmonella should be kept below 2 percent. If Denmark loses its special status it will not have the possibility of rejecting foreign eggs. Denmark also received special status for Salmonella in chicken meat last year so it can demand foreign chicken meat be free of Salmonella before it is sent to the country.

Special guarantees include extended monitoring showing the absence of Salmonella before sending consignments to recognized countries. Such guarantees also exist for Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Iceland was recently authorized to apply special requirements concerning Salmonella in meat and eggs from domestic fowl and meat from turkeys.

Fødevarestyrelsen, DTU Food – National Food Institute and the poultry industry are working together to find an explanation for the increase and to ensure the proportion of Salmonella-positive flocks falls below 2 percent as soon as possible.

Danske Æg, a trade association for the egg sector in Denmark, has visited all sites that had Salmonella infection in 2018 to clarify possible sources. The industry has emphasized the importance of good production practices.

Perge said there are no specific provisions in EU regulation on how a country could lose special status.

“However, the expectation would be that the requirements stated in the EU guidelines for obtaining special guarantees are fulfilled and that the country follows the approved control program. This is why we are making a thorough investigation of the increase in 2018 and doing everything possible to rectify the situation and find the source(s) of the contamination.

“When we have finalized the investigation the results will be forwarded to the EU Commission. It is the Commission and member states that decide if Denmark should lose special status.”

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