EFSA publishes EU-wide survey on Salmonella levels in turkeys

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a survey on Salmonella levels detected on commercial turkey farms across the European Union in 2006-2007. The full range ofSalmonella types were estimated on average to be present in almost one third of turkey flocks reared for human consumption (30.7%) and in 13.6% of turkey flocks kept for breeding purposes, according to an EU-wide report from an EFSA Task Force[1].   Amongst the full range ofSalmonella types, Salmonella Enteritidisand Salmonella Typhimurium (the two Salmonella types responsible for the majority of Salmonella-related food infections in humans) were detected in 3.8% of flocks reared for human consumption and in 1.7% of breeding flocks. Salmonella was the second most reported cause of food-borne diseases in humans in Europe with 160,649 people suffering from Salmonella infections in 2006[2] (approximately 35 people in every 100,000).

These results will now help the European Commission in setting targets<[3] to reduce Salmonella Enteritidisand Salmonella Typhimurium in turkey flocks across the EU. The EFSA Task Force is also recommending action at national level to reduce other serious types of Salmonella which often cause human infections.

Levels for the full range of Salmonella types detected in turkey flocks varied quite significantly between Member States[4]. Three Member States reported no cases at all in flocks reared for human consumption, while others detected levels as high as 78.5%. In the case of breeding flocks, more than half of the countries also reported no cases at all in their flocks, while others detected levels as high as 82.9%. In addition to Salmonella Enteritidisand Salmonella Typhimurium, the two Salmonella types responsible for the majority of Salmonella-infections in humans, some countries also reported high levels of other types of Salmonella.

Although there was a lower level of Salmonella in breeding flocks compared to flocks reared for consumption, Salmonella-infected chicks from breeding flocks which are sold to turkey-rearing farms for consumption can spread Salmonella amongst these flocks.

Salmonella is the second most reported cause of food-borne diseases in humans in Europe. Infections can range from a mild to severe gastroenteritis and in some vulnerable groups, such as children and the elderly can be fatal. Risks for consumers are from under-cooking of turkey meat or cross-contamination to other foods. Thorough cooking and strict kitchen hygiene will prevent or reduce the risk posed by Salmonella contaminated turkey meat.

In the future, EFSA will also publish a series of other baseline surveys[5] on Salmonella and Campylobacter which are carried out based on sampling and reporting from Member States. A baseline survey on Salmonella in pigs reared for human consumption will be published over the coming months. In the case of Salmonella in animal populations, baseline surveys will assist the European Commission in setting reduction targets.

[1]Task Force comprising expert representatives from EU Member States, Norway and Switzerland on Zoonoses Data Collection on the Analysis of the baseline survey on the prevalence of Salmonella in turkey flocks in the EU, 2006-2007.
[2] EFSA Community Report on Zoonoses 2006
[3]Regulation (EC) 2160/2003 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 November 2003 on the control of salmonella and other specified food-borne zoonotic agents.
[4]Pages 14 and 19 of the study provide detailed information on estimated flock prevalence broken down by Member State.
[5]Two previous baseline studies were published last Spring on salmonella in laying hen flocks (chickens raised for egg production) and salmonella in broiler meat (chickens raised for chicken meat).

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