EFSA reports aim to harmonise monitoring of two food-borne zoonoses

EFSA has published two new reports aimed at improving the monitoring and reporting in the European Union of two bacteria responsible for zoonotic diseases which can be transmitted from animals and food to humans. These are Yersinia (Yersinia enterocolitica), which causes the 3rd most frequently reported zoonoses in Europe, and VTEC (verotoxigenic Escherichia coli), which although less widespread, can be fatal.

The technical specifications contained in the reports describe how data should be collected and include a risk-based sampling strategy specifying details on the frequency and methods of sampling and laboratory analysis. This will allow Member States to produce more relevant and comparable data to support EFSA in its task of analysing the occurrence of these zoonoses and identifying the sources for human infections with these zoonoses. The harmonisation will also lead to more cost effective monitoring.

Yersinia enterocolitica is a bacterium carried by pigs and to a lesser extent by other animals. When passed to humans it causes the infectious disease called yersiniosis. It most often affects young children and causes such symptoms as fever, abdominal pain and diarrhoea. In an opinion on monitoring Y. enterocolitica in pigs[1] in 2007, experts on EFSA’s Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ) Panel recommended that national surveys of pigs at slaughterhouses be carried out depending on the prevalence of the disease in individual Member States.

VTEC infections, although less widespread, can have serious health impact, such as acute kidney failure in young children. EFSA recommends monitoring VTEC in young cattle and sheep at the slaughterhouse at least every three years. It bases these specifications on an opinion by EFSA’s BIOHAZ Panel in 2007[2] on the identification and monitoring of pathogenic VTEC strains in humans.

The guidance documents were drawn up following recent EFSA Community Summary reports which showed that there were insufficient data to assess the sources of human infections from these two zoonotic agents. Access to good quality data is essential for EFSA in providing the best scientific advice to support risk managers in their decisions to protect the health of people throughout the EU.

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