Campylobacter decreases slightly, Salmonella down, Listeria up – EFSA and ECDC say

Press Release
19 February 2014

Human cases of campylobacteriosis decreased slightly in 2012 for the first time in five years, but campylobacteriosis remains the most commonly reported zoonotic disease and it is premature to suggest that this is the beginning of a downward trend. Salmonella cases in humans have continued to fall, marking a decrease for the seventh consecutive year. The trend in reported human cases of Listeria has been gradually increasing over the past four years. These are some of the main findings of the annual report on zoonoses and foodborne outbreaks in the European Union for 2012.

Key findings

Campylobacteriosis is still the most reported disease, accounting for 214,000 cases of infections. Typical symptoms include diarrhoea, fever and headache. The bacterium that causes the disease, Campylobacter, is mostly found in chicken meat.

It is encouraging to see that cases of campylobacteriosis have gone down in 2012. But more investigation and monitoring is needed to see if this is the beginning of a trend”, said Marta Hugas, Acting Head of EFSA’s Risk Assessment and Scientific Assistance Department.

Over the years, salmonellosis has been decreasing- with 91,034 reported cases in 2012. This is mainly due to the successful Salmonella control programmes put in place by EU Member States and the European Commission in poultry, the report said. Most Member States met their Salmonella reduction target for poultry flocks. Salmonella, which typically causes fever, abdominal cramps and vomiting, was most often found in poultry meat.

Johan Giesecke, Chief Scientist at ECDC, added: “The decreasing trend of salmonellosis is very encouraging. However our evidence shows that any Salmonella serovar can cause human illness which requires continued surveillance and vigilance.”

Listeriosis accounted for 1,642 reported cases, 10.5% more than in 2011 and has been gradually increasing over the past five years. In infected people, symptoms vary, ranging from mild flu-like symptoms to more serious infections such as meningitis, septicaemia and other potentially life-threatening complications. The EU surveillance focuses only on cases of severe infections and therefore represents only a small proportion of all Listeria infections in humans. The incidence of listeriosis is particularly high in elderly people, aged over 74 years. Other risk groups include pregnant women and persons with weakened immune systems. Listeria monocytogenes, the bacterium that causes listeriosis in humans and animals, was mostly found in ready-to-eat fish and meat products (for example smoked fish or sliced ham).

Zoonoses are diseases that can be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and humans, for instance by consuming contaminated foodstuffs or through contact with infected animals. They are a common, costly- yet preventable- public health problem.

This report provides an accurate overview of which microorganisms cause the most cases of foodborne diseases in the European Union, and in which foods and animals they are found. It helps the European Commission and EU Member States to monitor, control and prevent zoonotic diseases. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) produce it jointly every year, using data collected by EU Member States.


Notes to editors:

  • Food-borne outbreaks include two or more human cases in which the same contaminated food has been consumed.
  • The report covers 11 zoonotic diseases or microorganisms in total, amongst which are also included verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli, Mycobacterium bovis, brucellosis, trichinellosis, Toxoplasma, rabies, Q fever, and, for the first time, West Nile fever.
  • The report also gives information about foodborne outbreaks. The number of reported foodborne outbreaks decreased compared with 2011. Salmonella continued to be the most frequently reported cause of  foodborne outbreaks with known origin, although the largest outbreak in 2012 was caused by norovirus associated with frozen strawberries.

For media enquiries please contact:

EFSA Media Relations Office
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E-mail: press@efsa.europa.eu

ECDC Press Office
Tel. +46 (0) 858 601 678
E-mail: press@ecdc.europa.eu