Campylobacter bug stabilises in Europe

Despite the headlines in the UK, the amount of illness caused by campylobacter has stabilised, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

According to a report produced by EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) into foodborne illness across Europe, the number of cases of humans infected with the campylobacter bug actually decreased last year.

However, the report went on to state there were 214,779 cases and campylobacteriosis remained the most commonly reported foodborne disease in the EU.

“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, head of EFSA’s Risk Assessment and Scientific Assistance Department, who stressed the importance of monitoring foodborne illnesses in Europe.

Campylobacter in the UK is a hot topic after the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found that 70% of retailed raw chicken contained the bug, with no retailers meeting end-of-line production standards.

Cases of listeria, caused by cross-contamination, increased 8.6% between 2012 and 2013 and have been increasing over the past five years, according to the report.

EFSA stated that although this figure was low, the cases that occurred were more violent and invasive strains of the bug,

“The rise in 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, chief scientist at ECDC.

Researchers reported cases of salmonella, present in poultry, were down for the eighth consecutive year. The report hailed salmonella control programmes in poultry a success, noting that most Member States met their reduction goals for prevalence in poultry for 2013.

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