EFSA publishes EU-wide survey on Salmonella levels in broiler meat flocks
EFSA has published a survey on the levels of Salmonella detected in broiler flocks (chickens reared for meat) across the European Union in 2005-6. Salmonella was estimated to be present in almost 1 in 4 flocks (23.7%) according to the survey which was compiled by EFSA’s Zoonoses Task Force comprising expert representatives from EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland. Informed by these results, the European Commission will now set an EU-wide reduction target in broiler flocks for two of the Salmonella types (Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium) that are responsible for most cases of Salmonella related food poisoning in humans. The Task Force is also recommending action at national level to reduce other types of Salmonella of importance to public health as well as consumer education campaigns and strict implementation of EU food hygiene legislation in mass catering to increase consumer protection.
Detection levels in flocks varied significantly between Member States with Salmonella being found in 0% to 68.2% of national flocks. Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium which are the two most frequently reported Salmonella types in human cases in the EU, were detected in approximately 40% of Salmonella positive flocks. Informed by the results of the EFSA survey, the European Commission will set an EU-wide reduction target for these two types of Salmonella for a transitional three-year period.
Chicken meat from broilers is linked to many food poisoning cases of Salmonella in Europe. According to national figures provided in EFSA’s 2005 zoonoses report, 0 to 18% of fresh (raw) chicken meat samples were contaminated with Salmonella. Salmonella was the second most reported cause of food-borne diseases in humans in Europe with 176,395 people suffering from Salmonella infections in 2005 (approximately 38 people in every 100,000). Salmonella infections can range from a mild to severe gastroenteritis and in some vulnerable groups, such as children and the elderly can be fatal. Affected people can also suffer long term effects, such as reactive arthritis. Risks for consumers are from under-cooking of chicken meat or cross-contamination to other foods. Thorough cooking and strict kitchen hygiene will prevent or reduce the risk posed by Salmonella contaminated meat.
EFSA also published a survey last year on Salmonella levels in laying hen flocks (chickens raised for egg production) across the EU .
In addition to the EU-wide Salmonella reduction target for Salmonella Enteritidis and Salmonella Typhimurium, the Task Force recommends that Member States also take action in their national control programmes on other Salmonella types of particular public health importance in their countries. According to the Task Force, consumer education campaigns about good hygiene practices in handling of chicken meat and strict implementation of food hygiene legislation in mass catering would also increase protection of consumers.