The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to evaluate the impact on public health of reducing Salmonella levels in turkeys across the European Union (EU). The presence of Salmonella in turkeys is considered a risk for public health through the consumption of contaminated meat from these animals. EFSA’s work will support any consideration by the Commission of setting new targets to control Salmonella in turkeys.
In a new scientific opinion, experts from EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards identify the main Salmonella serovars* in turkeys and indicate that transmission from breeding stock to fattening flocks is an important source of Salmonella infection as well as such sources as contaminated feed or turkey houses.
Through the use of a modelling tool and the analysis of harmonised EU-wide data on Salmonella in animals and on reported cases of human salmonellosis (the Salmonella-derived infection that affects humans), the Panel estimated the relative public health impact of Salmonella transmitted to humans from four different animal sources: turkeys, broiler hens, laying hens and pigs. A reduction of Salmonella levels in 2012 to 1% or less for all the serovars considered in the model in fattening turkey flocks would result in an estimated 2.2% reduction across the EU of all cases of human salmonellosis compared to 2010. The Panel emphasised that the individual EU Member States’ contributions to the estimated reductions vary greatly.
Targets are being set for the reduction of certain Salmonella serovars in different poultry populations and in pigs within the framework of EU legislation on the control of zoonotic diseases (infections or diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans, for instance by consuming contaminated food).
Among the recommendations on data gathering and surveillance measures, the Panel highlights the need to enhance active surveillance in all EU Member States in order to better estimate the true incidence of human salmonellosis. Human salmonellosis cases may not always be identified as such and can also go unreported.
*Serovars/serotypes are variations within a species of bacteria or viruses that allow the epidemiologic classification of organisms to the sub-species level.