Farm to fork approach vital against persisting food poisoning

By Laura Crowley

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Foodborne illness, Salmonella

The European Food Standards Authority (EFSA) emphasised the
importance of the farm to fork approach in combating the continuing
high prevalence of infectious diseases transmissible from animals
to humans.

In its annual report on zoonotic diseases, EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control found that while salmonella and campylobacter infections have decreased in Europe, Listeria has increased by 8.6 per cent. "The 2006 zoonoses report shows that the farm to fork approach for food safety and protecting public health is vital," ​said EFSA executive director Catherine Geslain-Laneelle. The farm to fork policy applies regulations at every point in the food chain in an attempt to improve safety. Geslain-Laneelle added: "Listeriosis is on the increase and bacteria such as​ Salmonella and Campylobacter​ are still being found in animals on the farm, the food on our table and, unfortunately, in humans." ​Furthermore, some bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to commonly used antibiotics. ECDC Director Zsuzsanna Jakab, said: "An alarming fact highlighted in the 2006 report is that zoonotic bacteria found in animals and in humans are becoming increasingly resistant to commonly used antibiotics. This trend should be of concern for all those working with animal and human health issues." Twenty-four member states submitted information on the occurrence of zoonoses to the European Commission and EFSA in 2006 to produce this report. Listeriosis ​The number of reported cases of listeriosis has increased considerably, from 1,427 cases in 2005 to 1,583 in 2006. Alarmingly, the number of cases per 100,000 has increased by over 59 per cent over the last five years. Although still affecting significantly fewer people than salmonella and campylobacter, it carries a high mortality rate, particularly among vulnerable groups such as the elderly. It is also very dangerous to pregnant women as it can cause foetal infections, miscarriages and stillbirths. Fifty-six per cent of Listeria​ infections occurred in individuals above 65 years of age. Ready-to-eat foodstuffs, such as cheeses and fishery and meat products, tended to be at the origin of most human infections. Salmonella ​The number of cases of salmonella reported in Europe has dropped for the third consecutive year, from 173,879 people in 2005 (38 people per 100,000) to 160,649 in 2006 (35 cases per 100,000). This makes it the second most common human zoonotic disease across the EU. The majority of human salmonella infections have originated from eggs, poultry, meat, pig meat, and even spices and herbs. An average of 5.6 per cent of all raw broiler meat samples were reported to be infected with Salmonella in the EU, and in some instances the levels were as high as 67.6 per cent. Campylobacter ​The most frequently reported animal infection transmissible to humans is campylobacter, with over 175,000 sufferers in the EU in 2006 (46 cases for every 100,000 people). This fell from 195, 426 in 2005, which represented 52 cases in every 100,000 people. The most common food borne route of infection is through poultry meat. An average 35 per cent of all raw broiler meat samples in the EU tested positive for campylobacter. This went up to as high as 66.3 per cent in some instances.

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