Listeria infections increase in vulnerable groups
Listeria cases have increased among two groups of the population Community of humans, animals or plants from the same species.: people over 75 and women aged 25-44 (believed to be mainly pregnancy-related). This is one of the main conclusions of an EFSA scientific opinion Opinions include risk assessments on general scientific issues, evaluations of an application for the authorisation of a product, substance or claim, or an evaluation of a risk assessment. on Listeria monocytogenes and risks to public health from consumption of contaminated ready-to-eat food Food intended by the producer for direct consumption without the need for cooking or other processing.. The opinion covers the period 2008-2015.
Experts began work on the scientific opinion after the 2015 EU summary report on foodborne zoonotic A term given to diseases and infections that can be transmitted between animals and humans. diseases identified an increasing trend of listeriosis over the period 2009-2013.
EFSA experts concluded that the higher incidence The number of new events occurring within a specified time period within a defined geographical area; for example, the number of flu cases per year in Europe. of listeriosis among the elderly was likely linked to the increased proportion of people aged over 45 with underlying health conditions, such as cancer and diabetes.
The rise in consumption of ready-to-eat foods and an improved monitoring system in some Member States may also have contributed to this trend.
Most people get infected through the consumption of ready-to-eat foods such as smoked and cured fish, heat treated meat and soft and semi-soft cheese. However, other foods – such as prepared salads – can also lead to infections.
Experts estimated that one third of cases of listeriosis are due to growth of Listeria monocytogenes in food prepared and stored at home in the refrigerator. This highlights the importance of following good hygiene practices, such as respecting recommended storage temperatures and times. International organisations such as the World Health Organization advise that foods should be refrigerated below 5°C.
This scientific opinion was finalised after considering more than 200 comments received during a public consultation.