Food safety agency says foodborne diseases on the rise in the EU

Mixed meats. Bavaria, 2008. [Alpha/Flickr]

The EU is experiencing more cases of listeriosis, salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis, which are diseases transmitted directly or indirectly from animals, according to a new report published today (17 December).

The report by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) says that listeriosis infections reported in humans increased by 16% from 2013 to 2014. Overall there were 2,161 cases in the EU last year.

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The EFSA said that while this number is low, the infections were the severe forms of the disease, which cause a higher death rate, particularly among the elderly and weaker patients.

Campylobacteriosis, which is mostly found in chicken meat, remains the most commonly-reported foodborne disease in the EU, with 236,851 confirmed cases in 2014, up 10% from 2013, but here the EU’s food safety agency believes that a better surveillance system and improved diagnostics explain the rise in several member states. 

“All main actors in the food chain need to act together to improve monitoring at EU level. Such cooperation is crucial to reduce the burden of these two diseases in Europe,” says Marta Hugas, the head of EFSA’s Biological Hazards and Contaminants Unit.

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In the case of salmonellosis, the EU has witnessed a small rise as well, but this is also due to the fact that new member states have started to report cases, and that better salmonella control programmes were put in place, according to EFSA.  

Research suggests that between 33% and 50% of all human infectious diseases are transmitted from animals.

About 75% of the new diseases that have affected humans over the past 10 years (such as the West Nile Virus) have originated from animals, or products of animal origin.

Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and humans. Zoonotic foodborne diseases are transmitted by consuming contaminated food stuffs.

The new report by the EFSA and ECDC gives information about foodborne outbreaks. In 2014, a total of 5,251 foodborne outbreaks were reported, compared with 5,196 outbreaks reported by 24 member states in 2013.

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