Numbers of EU consumers contracting Campylobacter and E.coli food poisoning are increasing, with the data on E.coli particularly worrying, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The information has been laid out in the latest zoonoses report, Trends and Sources of Zoonoses, Zoonotic Agents and Food-borne Outbreaks in 2011, compiled by EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
Based on the latest analysed figures from 2011, confirmed cases of what is known as Verocytoxigenic E.coli (VTEC), of which E.coli O157 H7 is one of the higher profile strains, more than doubled 2010 figures. Numbers increased from 3,656 to 9,485.
'Still an area of concern'
Frank Boelaert, doctor in veterinary medicine and veterinary science and deputy head of the EFSA unit that created the report, told FoodProductionDaily.com that even excluding big 2011 E.coli outbreaks in Germany and France, cases were up significantly. "There is still an increase and this is still an area of concern."
According to the EFSA report, human cases of disease contraction from E.coli were mainly associated with beef, poultry meat, milk and dairy products and vegetables.
Instances of Campylobacteriosis remained by far the largest number, with 220,209 confirmed cases in 2011. However, this represents only a 2.2% rise on 2010 figures.
For 2011, most of the information on Campylobacter in foodstuffs was reported with regard to broiler meat and products derived from it. Overall, 31.3 % of fresh broiler meat units were found positive for Campylobacter.
Boelaert partly attributed the increases associated with VTEC and Campylobacter to better reporting methods and improvements in ways to identify different strains of the pathogens. "The reporting system every year improves ... We always have the latest updated methods. It's partly also increased awareness and identification."
However, he said there were causes beyond that and EFSA was working on determining those. "At this point in time, it's not clear yet ... There will be further work with [European Commission and Member State] risk managers at European level. Nationally there are different patterns. Different strains are circulating, so nationally there is no clear agreement.
"Measures are taken by risk managers based on guidance from EFSA. There need to be risk assessments to identify [for example] exposure levels and major sources [of infection]."
He stressed that incidences of Salmonella-associated food poisoning had decreased by 5.4% between 2010 and 2011. "In 2006 they were above 200,000 and now we are below half of that. That shows we have got a grip on this." Cases of Listeria-associated food poisoning stood at 1,476, a 7.8% decrease from 2010-2011, he said.
A full copy of the report can be found here .