The second annual European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) report highlights that while food safety measures have significantly reduced instances of salmonella affecting humans, more attention is needed to tackle campylobacter.
The findings are likely influence future European food safety policy decisions.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) provided the data on animal diseases that cross over to humans, known as zoonoses, and contributed to the analysis. The study was conducted on 24 EU countries and Norway, Iceland and Switzerland.
EU reporting of investigated cases of outbreaks caused by food contamination was made mandatory 2005 for the first time. During 2005, there were 5,311 foodborne outbreaks reported in the EU involving 47,251 people. They resulted in 5,330 hospitalisations and 24 deaths.
In 2005, reported cases of campylobacter in humans increased 7.8 per cent against the previous year rising to an incidence rate of 51.6 per 100,000 and a total of 197,363 recorded cases.
Salmonella, campylobacter, and viruses were the most important causes of reportedfoodborne outbreaks in 2005. Egg and bakery products were the most common sources ofSalmonella outbreaks, whereas broiler meat was an important source for both salmonellaand campylobacter outbreaks. Foodborne virus outbreaks were most often caused bydrinking water, fruit and vegetables.
As in 2004, the primary source of campylobacter infections in 2005 was linked to fresh poultry with up to 66 per cent of some samples testing positive.
Salmonella infections, while still remaining a serious threat to human heath and very much in the public consciousness, fell by 9.5 per cent in 2005 to an incidence rate of 38.2 cases per 100,000, with a total 176,395 reported cases.
Reported salmonella was most often caused by fresh poultry and pig meat where proportions of positive samples up to 18 per cent were detected. In table eggs, findings of positive samples ranged from zero per cent to six per, but over the past five years an overall decreasing trend in occurrence of salmonella in eggs was observed. In animal populations, salmonella was most frequently detected in poultry flocks.
Relatively high proportions of campylobacter and salmonella isolates from animals and food were resistant to antimicrobials commonly used in treatment of human diseases.This is especially the case of resistance to fluoroquinolones in campylobacter isolatesfrom poultry, where up to 94 per cent of isolates were reported resistant to ciprofloxacin.
This is a concern for the food industry and consumers as pathogen resistance compromises effective treatment and prevention.
The report provides additional information on other zoonotic diseases, which although not as prevalent in people as campylobacter and salmonella, still pose a threat to human health due to their severity.
EFSA highlights listeriosis, for example, in the report. The disease is relatively rare, with only 1439 reported cases in 2005, but has high case-fatality rate and potential affects on unborn children which can lead to miscarriage. Verotoxigencic Escherichia coli, a type of E coli, affected 3,314 people in 2005 and is another disease that can seriously damage the health of humans, especially children.