Salmonella

Salmonella is a bacterium that can cause an illness called salmonellosis in humans. In the European Union (EU), over 100,000 human cases are reported each year. EFSA has estimated that the overall economic burden of human salmonellosis could be as high as EUR 3 billion a year.

To protect consumers from Salmonella, the EU has adopted an integrated approach to food safety from the farm to the fork. The approach consists of both risk assessment and risk management measures involving all key actors: EU Member States, European Commission, European Parliament, EFSA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The approach is supported by timely and effective risk communication activities.

EFSA plays an important role in protecting consumers from this public health threat by providing independent scientific support and advice on human health and food safety-related aspects of Salmonella.

A coordinated approach by all EU actors on zoonotic diseases have helped reduce human cases of salmonellosis in the EU by almost one-half over five years (2004-2009). In 2003, the EU set up an extended control programme for zoonoses, considering Salmonella as a priority. Enhanced Salmonella control programmes in poultry were implemented in all EU Member States. Targets were set for the reduction of Salmonella in poultry flocks (e.g. laying hens, broilers, turkeys) and pigs. Restrictions were also imposed on the trade of products from infected flocks. EFSA provided scientific advice on the impact of setting reduction targets for Salmonella in poultry (breeding hens, laying hens and broilers) and analysed the progress made in the EU in meeting the targets. EFSA has also provided scientific advice on setting possible reduction targets for the bacteria in poultry meat as well as risk assessments on Salmonella in pigs.

Salmonellosis is a zoonosis – disease or infection that can be transmitted directly or indirectly between animals and humans. Usual symptoms of human salmonellosis include fever, diarrhoea and abdominal cramps. If it infects the bloodstream it can be life-threatening. Salmonella is commonly found in the intestines of healthy birds and mammals. In foods, it is most frequently found in eggs and raw meat from pigs, turkeys and chickens. It can spread to humans through contaminated foods. Safe handling of raw meat and other raw food ingredients, thorough cooking and good kitchen hygiene can prevent or reduce the risk posed by contaminated food.

EFSA's role

The European Food Safety Authority provides independent scientific advice and scientific assistance through the collection and analysis of data on the prevalence of Salmonella in animals and foods as well as by assessing the food safety risks posed by the bacterium for human health and advising on possible control and mitigation options.

EFSA’s findings are used by risk managers in the EU and the Member States to help inform policy, and to support the setting of possible reduction targets for Salmonella in the food chain.

Annual monitoring of Salmonella in animals and food

EU-wide data on the presence of Salmonella in the food chain as well as the prevalence of animal and human infection are collected and analysed in annual EU Summary Reports prepared by EFSA and ECDC.

In the Summary Report, ECDC and EFSA provide yearly updates on the progress made in meeting the reduction targets for Salmonella. These reports analyse the data from the  monitoring of Salmonella in animals, food and humans collected by Member States. Between 2005 and 2009, the reports indicated a clear downward trend for Salmonella with respect to human cases, human outbreaks and its prevalence in poultry flocks.

EU-wide surveys on the prevalence of Salmonella

EFSA produces EU-wide baseline survey reports on the prevalence of Salmonella in food and food-producing animals, including chickens, turkeys and pigs, and on the risk factors that contribute to the prevalence of Salmonella in animal populations. The findings are used by risk assessors such as EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards to provide risk estimates and also by risk managers to define possible control options and/or reduction targets.

Risk assessments and recommendations

EFSA’s Panel on Biological Hazards evaluates the food safety risks of Salmonella and provides scientific advice on control options at the request of risk managers or on its own initiative. EFSA also assesses the impact of setting new EU-wide reduction targets for Salmonella in various animals.This work helps the European Commission and the Member States to monitor the situation and consider possible reviews of reduction targets set for Salmonella in the food chain.

EFSA is assisted in its work by the Scientific Panel on Biological Hazards composed of 21 independent experts on biological hazards in the food chain and by the Task Force on Zoonoses Data Collection: a pan-European network of national representatives of EU Member States, other reporting countries, as well as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).

EFSA is working together with key EU actors to reduce Salmonella in laying hens

General approach
EFSA analyses comparable data from all EU Member States from baseline surveys on the prevalence of Salmonella in food or animal populations. EFSA is responsible for determining the technical specifications for these harmonised EU-wide surveys.

 

Salmonella in laying hens
EFSA collected data and analysed the results of a baseline survey on Salmonella in laying hens in 2006. The results showed that the most important Salmonella types causing diseases in humans were found in 20% of the holdings surveyed.

 

 

 

Based on the data collected and analysed by EFSA, European and national risk managers may set targets for the reduction of Salmonella at the EU-level in food or animal populations.

 

European and national risk managers set a target to reduce these Salmonella types in laying hens to 2% in all EU Member States. 

 

 

 

Member States implement the reduction programme. EFSA and ECDC collect annual data from the Member States on the prevalence of zoonoses and zoonotic agents to follow the situation.

 

Member States took steps to reduce Salmonella in laying hens in order to meet the annual reduction targets. For the annual reporting on zoonoses, Member States began submitting data on the occurrence of Salmonella in laying hens to EFSA.

 

 

 

EFSA and ECDC analyse the data on prevalence of zoonoses in the EU and publish the Annual European Union Summary report.

 

EFSA analysed the data collected from the Member States on Salmonella in laying hens concluding that 17 Member States had met the reduction target in 2009.

 

 

 

Member States complete the reduction programme. The risk managers evaluate the results and, if necessary, define new reduction targets. EFSA’s Scientific Panels carry out additional assessments and give advice on issues such as the impact of new mitigation and control options as requested by the Commission. 

 

Member States continued their work to meet the targets. After consulting EFSA, the Commission sets future targets for the reduction programme. 

EU framework

The monitoring and control of food-borne diseases as well as food hygiene requirements and food safety criteria are regulated by EU legislation. For details on the regulatory framework, see the topic on Food-borne zoonotic diseases.

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Last updated: 27 August 2014