ANALYSIS - A survey of foodborne pathogens in poultry meat in Germany and the incidence of illness has shown that the number of cases of Salmonella poisoning are falling but there is no decrease in the number of cases of poisoning from Campylobacter.
The survey by the safety authority – the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) – showed that it is not possible to prevent the contamination of poultry carcasses.
The report says that despite every effort to control pathogens that come from livestock, they may still be present in food.
“The results of our report show that we must continue to control zoonoses in poultry production and identify them at slaughter,” said BfR president, Professor Andreas Hensel.
“Control measures are essential in food preparation in the kitchen and food hygiene precautions have to be taken to protect consumers from food poisoning.”
BfR said that through the report appropriate measures can be identified for the prevention and reduction of zoonotic agents at all stages of the production process.
The study looked at the figures for 2013, and found that there were about 19,000 cases of salmonellosis reported in Germany in the year.
However, it found that both the number of food poisoning cases and the number of contaminated food samples was falling.
The BfR report said that extensive control of Salmonella in the poultry flocks had led to fewer flocks proving positive to Salmonella, but the report warns that Salmonella is still fund in poultry meat, because of contamination during slaughter and cross contamination with other livestock species.
The most common disease caused by zoonotic contamination was campylobacteriosis with about 63,600 cases reported in Germany in 2013.
The study showed that the most common cause of food poisoning from campylobacter was poultry and the slaughter process is the most common way that poultry meat is contaminated with both Salmonella and Campylobacter.
However, BfR said that at present there are not any sufficiently effective ways of preventing transmission of the pathogens from the birds’ feathers and intestinal tract to the meat.
The report said that other pathogens such as Listeria monocytogenes and verotoxin-producing E.coli (VTEC) are rarely detected in food.
However, it says that the relevance to humans is less in the number of cases that are reported but in the severity of the illness they cause.
Listeria contamination in 2013 in Germany with bacteria counts above 100cfu per grame was most commonly found in fish products and in rare cases in dairy products such a yoghurt. It was also found in vegetables.
VTEC, which is mainly found in cattle, was found in beef products during the year in Germany.
BfR said that overall the report shows that Germany has appropriate tools to warn about the dangers of foodborne pathogens in the production process and also the tools to tackle incidents when they occur.
However, it also shows that despite all the good efforts of the food producers and processors food will still contain pathogens – in restaurants, community facilities and in the family home.
The agency stresses that the results show the importance of good food and kitchen hygiene to prevent foodborne diseases.
You can view the full report (in German) by clicking here.