Campylobacter Cases in EU Stable, Listeria Rising

EU - The number of incidents of illness caused by Campylobacter across Europe appears to be stabilising, according to a new report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
calendar icon 29 January 2015
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However the number of cases of listeriosis and infections from E.coli are on the increase. The incidents of reported salmonellosis and yersiniosis cases have decreased, according to the European Union Summary Report on Trends and Sources of Zoonoses, Zoonotic Agents and Food-borne Outbreaks in 2013.

Marta Hugas EFSA
Marta Hugas, Director of EFSA's Risk Assessment and Scientific Assistance Department

“The stabilisation of campylobacteriosis cases and the continuing downward trend of salmonellosis is good news, but we should not lower our guard as reporting of other diseases such as listeriosis and VTEC infections is going up,” said Marta Hugas, Director of EFSA’s Risk Assessment and Scientific Assistance Department.

At the same time she stressed the importance of monitoring foodborne illnesses in Europe.

A total of 5,196 food-borne outbreaks, including water-borne outbreaks, were reported in the EU in 2013.

Most food-borne outbreaks were caused by Salmonella, followed by viruses, bacterial toxins and Campylobacter, whereas in 28.9 per cent of all outbreaks the causative agent was unknown.

Important food vehicles in strong-evidence food-borne outbreaks were eggs and egg products, followed by mixed food, and fish and fish products.

The report further summarises trends and sources along the food chain of tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis, Brucella, Trichinella, Echinococcus, Toxoplasma, rabies, Coxiella burnetii (Q fever), West Nile Virus and tularaemia.

Campylobacteriosis Stabilised

The report showed that human cases of campylobacteriosis fell slightly for the first time in five years.

EFSA said that the 2013 figures show that the incidents have stabilised to the levels reported in 2012.

However, campylobacteriosis remains the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU, with 214,779 cases.

The report says that in food, Campylobacter that causes campylobacteriosis is mostly found in chicken meat.

Listeriosis and VTEC Infections Rise

Listeriosis cases rose by 8.6 per cent between 2012 and 2013 and have been increasing over the past five years.

EFSA said that although the number of confirmed cases is relatively low at 1,763, these are of particular concern as the reported Listeria infections are mostly severe, invasive forms of the disease with higher death rates than for the other foodborne diseases.

“The rise of reported invasive listeriosis cases is of great concern as the infection is acquired mostly from ready-to-eat food and it may lead to death, particularly among the increasing population of elderly people and patients with weakened immunity in Europe,” said Mike Catchpole, the Chief Scientist at ECDC.

Despite the rise of listeriosis cases reported in humans, Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes listeriosis in humans and animals, was seldom detected above the legal safety limits in ready-to-eat foods.

Reported cases of verocytotoxin-producing E. coli (VTEC) infection rose by 5.9 per cent.

EFSA believes that this is possibly an effect of increased awareness in EU countries following the outbreak in 2011, which produced better testing and reporting.

The report says that no trends were seen on the presence of VTEC in food and animals.

Salmonellosis and Yersiniosis Declining

Salmonellosis cases fell for the eighth year in succession, with 82,694 cases – a 7.9 per cent fall in the number of cases reported in the EU compared to 2012.

The report attributes the decrease to Salmonella control programmes in poultry and says that most countries in the EU met their reduction goals for prevalence in poultry for 2013.

In fresh poultry meat, compliance with EU Salmonella criteria increased – a signal that Member States’ investments in control measures are working.

Yersiniosis, the third most commonly reported zoonotic disease in the EU with 6,471 cases, has seen incidents falling over the past five years and declined by 2.8 per cent compared with 2012.

The report from the European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control shows the results of the zoonoses monitoring activities carried out in 2013 in 32 European countries - 28 Member States and four non-Member States.

It looked at 16 zoonoses and foodborne outbreaks and is designed to aid the European Commission and EU Member States to monitor, control and prevent zoonotic diseases.

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