Commission sets targets to reduce Salmonella in poultry

EU - The European Commission has today adopted two Regulations aimed at reducing and controlling the prevalence of Salmonella in poultry and eggs across the EU. The first Regulation lays down targets for the reduction of Salmonella in laying hens, which in turn should lead to less Salmonella contamination in eggs.
calendar icon 4 August 2006
clock icon 6 minute read

Every Member State will have to work towards reducing the number of laying hens infected with Salmonella by a specific minimum percentage each year, with steeper targets for Member States with higher levels of Salmonella. The first target deadline is set for 2008, although Member States will have to submit national control programmes on Salmonella reduction in laying hens to the Commission by early 2007. The second Regulation adopted by the Commission today sets out rules on the methods used to control Salmonella in poultry, including mandatory vaccination from 2008 onwards for laying hens in Member States with a Salmonella prevalence of 10% or more. In addition to the 2 Regulations adopted today, the Commission is also currently looking into the possibility of introducing a trade ban on eggs from Salmonella infected flocks as soon as possible. This is in light of the recent findings in the preliminary EFSA report on Salmonella levels in laying hens[1]. A Commission proposal for certain trade restrictions has already been presented to Member States and the options will be discussed further with national food safety experts in the autumn.

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said “Salmonella is one of the most prevalent food-borne diseases in the EU, affecting thousands of people every year, sometimes with very serious consequences. However, simple measures can greatly cut down the risk this disease poses to public health. Reducing the incidence of Salmonella at farm level will lower its incidence through the rest of the food chain, and help meet the ultimate objective of protecting EU consumers. For this reason, I urge all Member States to do their utmost to meet the targets we have set today. “

Strict new targets

Today’s Regulation setting targets for Salmonella reduction in laying hens is part of the overall EU strategy to reduce food borne diseases and is line with a timetable for drawing up Salmonella reduction targets for different animal species, which was set out in the Zoonoses Regulation 2160/2003 (see IP/03/1306). The targets were drawn up on the basis of the recent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report, which found Salmonella levels in laying hens to range between 0% and 79% across the EU. Member State experts have already endorsed the reduction targets in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

Meeting the targets laid down in today’s Regulation will help operators to avoid having their products banned from the market in the future. Under the Zoonoses Regulation, it is foreseen that from 2010 onwards, eggs from Salmonella-infected flocks will be banned completely from being sold as table eggs in the EU, and will have to undergo a sterilisation procedure if they are to be used for processing into egg products. The Commission, together with Member States, is now considering the feasibility of accelerating the ban on marketing eggs from Salmonella-infected flocks. Initial discussions on this issue have revealed generally strong Member State support for some sort of trade ban in the near future, and the Commission will look at the options with national food safety experts in September, with a view to reaching agreement as quickly as possible.

It is therefore in the interest of Member States to reduce the levels of Salmonella in their live flocks to the greatest possible extent, in order to avoid the heavy impact these measures could have on the poultry and egg industry. Today’s Regulation setting out targets for the reduction of Salmonella in laying hens provides the basis for Member States to achieve this.

Under the Regulation, the following annual percentage reduction targets are set for Salmonella in laying hens:

  • 10% reduction if the prevalence of Salmonella in the preceding year was below 10%
  • 20% if the prevalence of Salmonella in the preceding year was 10-19%
  • 30% if the prevalence of Salmonella in the preceding year was 20-39%
  • 40% if the prevalence of Salmonella in the preceding year was over 40%

The ultimate target is to achieve a reduction in Salmonella levels to 2% or less. By setting incremental percentage reductions, the aim is to ensure particularly rapid progress in those Member States with a higher incidence of Salmonella in laying hens. The Regulation also sets out requirements for sampling and testing for Salmonella in laying hens, as well as the procedures for reporting results, in order to ensure that progress on reaching the set targets can be properly monitored. The Regulation adopted today will apply from 1 August 2006, and national authorities will have 6 months from that date to submit national control programmes to the Commission for approval and for EU funding.

Similar targets have already been set at EU level for breeding hens and the European Commission will bring forward separate targets to reduce Salmonella in broiler hens, turkeys and certain types of pigs in the coming years.

Harmonised rules on Salmonella control

The Commission also adopted a Regulation today setting out the rules for certain control measures used to reduce Salmonella in poultry, notably vaccines and anti-microbials. From 1 January 2008, all Member States with Salmonella prevalence above 10% will have to vaccinate their laying hens against Salmonella, in order to reduce the spread of the disease and the contamination of eggs. The vaccinations used must be authorised at EU level, and must be distinguishable from the field bacteria during sampling and testing. National authorities may exempt a holding from this vaccination requirement provided satisfactory preventive measures are being applied or there has been no incidence of Salmonella on the holding over the previous 12 months.

With regard to antimicrobials, an EFSA opinion recommended that their use for Salmonella control in livestock should be discouraged, due to the public health risks associated with development, selection and spread of antimicrobial resistance. In addition, if poultry is treated with antibiotics, the detection of Salmonella is difficult, which could lead to a hidden infection in the flock. Therefore, today’s Regulation states that antimicrobials should not be used as part of national control programmes for the control of Salmonella, except under very limited circumstances.

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