Consumer knowledge in Germany of Toxoplasma was better than that of Campylobacter, according to a recent report on a study.
Researchers surveyed 1,008 consumers in August 2017 in Germany via an online panel on Campylobacter, Salmonella and Toxoplasma and transmissibility via meat. The questionnaire had 43 questions in five sections.
Consumers were most informed about Salmonella and general knowledge of Toxoplasma is better than Campylobacter. Campylobacter, despite its high incidence in Germany, was largely unknown to consumers.
With almost 70,000 confirmed cases in 2017, Campylobacter is the main bacterial infection causing diarrheal disease reportable in Germany. Second was salmonellosis with 14,269 confirmed infections. Only seven cases of congenital human toxoplasmosis were confirmed in 2017.
A previous survey by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) found only 28 percent of people had heard of Campylobacter.
Knowledge of the three pathogens
Differences in knowledge between selected consumer groups were identified to better target information campaigns, according to the study published in the journal BMC Public Health.
Overall, 688 of the 1,008 respondents had never heard of Campylobacter. A total of 20 percent, or 204, had heard of it but did not know how to protect themselves, while 11.5 percent said they knew how to protect themselves. The study showed meat was not largely known as the main vector of Campylobacter.
A total of 28 respondents had never heard of Salmonella. Almost 20 percent, or 201, had heard of it but did not know how to protect themselves, while 77 percent, or 779, said they had heard of Salmonella and knew how to protect themselves. The survey found meat was predominantly known as a vector of Salmonella.
Of all respondents, almost half did not know about Toxoplasma. Nearly a third knew about it but did not know how to protect themselves, while 18.8 percent stated they knew about the infectious agent and how to protect themselves.
Of all respondents, 117 said they worked in the food chain in a variety of areas including agricultural holdings, meat sales, slaughtering and processing, food monitoring, and animal transport.
Almost half of these did not know about Campylobacter, more than a quarter said they had heard of it, and 22 people indicated they knew how to protect themselves. Of participating veterinarians, only two of 12 did not know about Campylobacter, four knew about it but did not know how to protect against infection, and six knew how to protect themselves.
In people working in the food sector, 6 percent did not know about Salmonella, while 72 percent knew how to protect themselves. Of consumers not in the food chain, 2 percent were unaware of Salmonella but 78 percent knew how to protect themselves.
In all age groups, less than 25 percent knew how to protect themselves from toxoplasmosis infection.
Role of meat
Slightly more than half of respondents who had at least heard of Campylobacter, 167 of 320, said that it was transmissible via meat. Of those who did not know how to protect themselves against Campylobacter infection, 93 of 204 thought it could be transmitted via meat. In comparison, 74 of 116 of consumers who knew how to protect themselves against infection thought it could be transmitted via meat.
Knowledge about Campylobacter differed between age groups, education levels and certain professional groups such as veterinarians and non-veterinarians, and actors and non-actors in the food chain.
Knowledge increased significantly with age: 20- to 39-year-old participants were twice as likely to know about Campylobacter as 16- to 19-year-old respondents. The 40- to 59-year-old participants were slightly more than 2.5 times more likely to know about it than the comparison group of 16- to 19-year-old participants. Those older than 60 were almost three times more likely to know about Campylobacter than the comparison group.
Of consumers who did not know how to protect themselves against Salmonella infection, 158 of 201 thought it could be transmitted via meat. In comparison, 691 of 779 who knew how to protect themselves against infection thought that Salmonella could be transmitted via meat.
Approximately half of 521 respondents who had heard of Toxoplasma said it was transmissible via meat. Of those consumers who did not know how to protect themselves against Toxoplasma infection, 135 of 331 thought it could be transmitted via meat. In comparison, 122 of 190 who knew how to protect themselves against Toxoplasma infection thought it could be transmitted via meat.
Researchers said although information about Campylobacter and protection against infection is available at national and international levels, the survey results suggest it does not reach consumers.
The team said consumer knowledge about Campylobacter and transmission routes must be increased to reduce the high annual incidence of infections.
They suggested providing a label with appropriate handling instructions or warning signs indicating Campylobacter risk could improve consumer awareness.
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