Denmark has unveiled a new plan to tackle Campylobacter and reduce the number of people getting ill from it.

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) said the risk of getting sick from Danish chicken meat has gone down since 2013 and sampling shows the pathogen is more often found on imported chicken.

The action plan for 2022 to 2026 was created with industry and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

Every year, about 4,000 people in Denmark become ill from Campylobacter in food. The University of Copenhagen has calculated the socio-economic costs of a single registered case of Campylobacter at DKK 250,000 (U.S. $35,400). Overall, this corresponds to more than DKK 1 billion per year ($140 million).

“The main focus of our strategy and action plan is on chicken meat, which is the largest source of infection,” said Annette Perge from Fødevarestyrelsen.

Missed targets in past strategy
As well as the focus on Campylobacter in broiler production, other key areas will be detection in the event of outbreaks and on uncovering sources of infection other than chicken.

The document reflects changing forms of production, such as more outdoor flocks and the slower process because of welfare issues.

In the action plan for 2018 to 2021, the goal was a 5 percent reduction every year in the number of Campylobacter patients. This target was not reached in 2018 and 2019, when there was an increase in sick people. This was influenced by a major outbreak in 2019, but also better reporting systems and the use of new improved methods. The target was reached in 2020 and probably in 2021 but the special circumstances during the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role.

The aim was for the risk of getting sick from eating chicken meat to be reduced by 50 percent compared to 2013. While this has not yet been achieved, the risk has dropped by 25 percent.

Another goal for broiler flocks was to maintain the incidence of Campylobacter at the same level as in 2017 which was 17.6 percent. This target was also missed but incidence fell from 24.6 percent in 2018 to 20.4 percent in 2020.

Aims in new plan
For 2022 to 2026, goals will be set to reduce the consumer’s risk of becoming ill from Danish chicken meat. Individual targets will be in place for large and medium-sized slaughterhouses.

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration is also working on a model to publish the results from monitoring of Danish and imported chicken at retail.

Efforts will see how whole genome sequencing can be used to a greater extent to find problems in slaughterhouses and flocks, development of a cheaper and faster method for typing Campylobacter and to trace sources of infection. Data sharing between poultry slaughterhouses and authorities will also be assessed.

Monitoring of Campylobacter in broilers may be adjusted based on the choice of sample type, sampling point and sample size. Source attribution work will continue with a focus on poultry.

Measures to prevent or reduce infected flocks will be looked at such as feed additives, altered production methods, refrigeration techniques and surface treatments.

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