Stricter rules on Campylobacter have not yet led to a decrease in contamination based on figures from a German agency.
Almost a quarter of carcasses in the country had Campylobacter counts of more than 1,000 colony forming units per gram (cfu/g) in 2018, according to the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL).
The process hygiene criterion of no more than 1,000 cfu/g on broiler carcasses at slaughterhouse level was introduced from January 2018 across the EU to determine the presence of Campylobacter spp. in the poultry meat chain. The aim is to prevent poultry meat with high levels of Campylobacter per gram being sold. If high levels are detected, the food business must improve hygiene.
In 2017, prior to introduction of the legislation, 22.7 percent of carcasses in Germany exceeded the levels. In 2018, the rate remained virtually unchanged at 22.6 percent. BVL said ongoing zoonotic monitoring will show to what extent the introduced threshold leads to an improvement in the situation.
The rules state that from January 2018, up to 40 percent of poultry carcasses tested for Campylobacter can exceed 1,000 cfu/g, from 2020 up to 30 percent of carcasses can exceed 1,000 cfu/g and from 2025, up to 20 percent can exceed 1,000 cfu/g.
In Germany, 67,872 human infections were reported to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) in 2018, which is about the same level of the past five years.
Nearly half of poultry skin carcasses (46.3 percent) and fresh chicken (47.8 percent) samples were positive for Campylobacter in 2018. The detection rate of Campylobacter spp. in samples of fresh chicken meat was 51.8 percent in 2017.
Number and cause of infections
As part of zoonoses monitoring in 2018, authorities in federal states took 5,974 samples at all levels of the food chain and examined occurrence of the most important foodborne pathogens.
Last year, 45 percent of cases reported to RKI in Germany were caused by Salmonella Enteritidis. In 33 percent, illness was caused by Salmonella Typhimurium. Salmonella Infantis, Salmonella Derby and Salmonella Kentucky made up the top five. All other serovars together accounted for 17 percent.
RKI reported 13,592 Salmonella infections in 2018, which is 5.2 percent fewer than in the previous year but higher than the 12,974 cases in 2016.
In Germany, between 2011 and 2017, Listeria infections doubled from 362 to 769. However, in 2018, the number of reported cases decreased to 701.
A total of 2,226 Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) infections were reported to RKI in 2018, corresponding to an increase of 10 percent compared to the previous year. The most frequently reported serogroups were O91, O103 and O157.
In 2017, with 95 reported illnesses, the highest number of hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) cases occurred since the major outbreak in 2011. In 2018, 68 infections were reported to the RKI, which was significantly less than the previous year.
RKI reported 2,384 cases of yersiniosis in 2018. The incidence has fallen slightly compared to the previous year. Among the patients, the most frequently detected serotype was O: 3.
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