EFSA identifies risk factors for Salmonella infections in turkey flocks in the EU

EFSA’s Task Force on Zoonoses Data Collection has today published an analysis of risk factors related to Salmonella in flocks of turkeys within the European Union (EU). The document will serve as a scientific basis to assist Member States in defining the best control measures for reaching the new Salmonella reduction target set by the European Commission[1].

The report, entitled “Part B - Factors related to Salmonella prevalence in turkey flocks”, highlights how in the case of turkeys reared for human consumption, the so-called fattening turkeys, farms with a greater number of birds are at higher risk of Salmonella infection.

Free-range flocks, including organic turkeys are also more likely to become infected with Salmonella than flocks reared indoors. The raising of fattening flocks along with flocks kept for breeding purposes also increases the risk of infection. Moreover, infections in fattening flocks are most often observed between October and December, when production peaks in many countries. Vaccination proved to play a role in preventing Salmonella infections in the flocks.

Among breeding turkeys, those flocks found to be positive to Salmonella were all concentrated in six Member States only; and the patterns of these infections closely reflect the farming characteristics of these Member States.

Also, the general distribution of Salmonella types in turkey flocks show different patterns than in Salmonella cases in humans. This may imply that the role of turkeys as a source of Salmonella infections in humans is more limited than that of other poultry, such as laying hens for egg production and broiler chickens. However, the Task Force stressed that there is proven infectivity of some Salmonella types affecting turkeys and that the risk for humans should not be overlooked.

Finally, EFSA’s Task Force concluded that some risk factors vary considerably between countries, and recommended that Member States carry out detailed risk factor analysis at national level in order to identify the specific factors that put their turkey flocks at risk of Salmonella infections.

The Report follows Part A[2] on Salmonella prevalence in turkey flocks, which last May provided the European Commission (EC) with the necessary data to set new target levels of Salmonella in turkey flocks in the Member States.