International Egg and Poultry Review

By the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service - This is a weekly report looking at international developments concerning the poultry industry, this week looking at the latest in the EU.
calendar icon 20 September 2006
clock icon 5 minute read

European Union

After publishing in June, 2006 a study on commercial egg laying hen operations with at least 1,000 hens in the 25 European Union (EU) 25 countries, and Norway the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) found a range of salmonella in hens ranging between 0-79%. The lowest levels were found in Luxembourg and Sweden while the highest rates, ranging from 52-80%, were found in Portugal, Poland and the Czech Republic. Test results also showed that 20% of all samples taken from operations with at least 1,000 hens in the EU tested positive for either or both Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimum.

A ramification of the survey was the adoption by the European Commission of 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. Every member of the EU will have to work towards reducing the number of laying hens infected with Salmonella by a specific minimum percentage each year. Steeper targets will be set for EU members with higher levels of Salmonella. The ultimate target is to achieve a reduction in Salmonella levels to 2% or less. The reductions have been endorsed by the Member State Expert in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health.

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% reduction 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 first target deadline is set for 2008, although member states will have to submit national Salmonella reduction control programs in laying hens to the European Commission by early 2007. The regulation took effect August 1, 2006 and members have 6 months from that date to submit national control programs for approval and EU funding. Similar targets have already been set at the EU level on breeding hens and are being considered on broiler hens, turkeys and certain types of pigs for implementation sometime in the future.

Under the Zoonoses Regulation, it is foreseen from 2010 onward that eggs from salmonella infected flocks will be banned completely from being sold as table eggs in the EU. The eggs from the contaminated flocks will have to go through a sterilization procedure if they are to be used for processing into egg products. The European Commission has also found generally strong support of accelerating the implementation of some sort of marketing or trade ban on salmonella infected flocks and currently options are under review.

The European Commission approved another regulation that set out the rules for certain control measures used to reduce Salmonella in poultry, notably vaccines and anti microbials. From January 1, 2008, all Member States with Salmonella prevalence above 10% will have to vaccinate their laying hens against salmonella to reduce the spread of the disease and contamination of eggs. The vaccinations must be authorized at the EU level and be distinguishable from field bacteria during sampling and testing. A holding may be exempted from this vaccination requirement provided satisfactory preventive measures have been applied or there has been no incidence of Salmonella on the holding the previous 12 months.

The EFSA has recommended that use of antimicrobials for Salmonella control in livestock be discouraged due to public health risks associated with development, selection and spread of antimicrobial resistance. Also, if poultry is treated with antibiotics it makes the detection of Salmonella difficult. As a result, antimicrobials should only be used in national control programs for Salmonella in very limited circumstances.

Even though European legislation has limited the quantity of antimicrobials used in food products and restricted their application base, it is anticipated usage will grow. The EFSA has recently approved the use of 4 antimicrobials to improve hygiene and processing procedures in chicken processing plants. Meanwhile the European Commission has approved 2 vaccines to be used.
Source: European Commission and various news sources

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