EU crack down on salmonella

Related tags European union Salmonella

European Commissioner David Byrne welcomed the Agriculture
Council's decision this week on new rules to cut the incidence of
foodborne diseases in the European Union. Salmonella alone costs
the EU an estimated €2.8bn.

European Commissioner David Byrne welcomed the Agriculture Council's decision this week on new rules to cut the incidence of foodborne diseases in the European Union.

In Europe, as elsewhere, zoonoses such as salmonella, campylobacter, listeria and toxin producing E. coli, lead to numerous sick days, needless deaths and large public health costs every year. The annual costs of foodborne salmonella alone, that hits 160 000 people each year, are estimated to hit €2.8 billion.

The two laws, proposed by the Commission in August of 2001 and backed by Parliament in May 2002, represent an overhaul of existing rules on zoonoses - diseases transmissible between animals and humans.

The first law is a Directive on monitoring zoonotic agents, aiming to improve knowledge of the sources and trends of these pathogens, to support microbiological risk assessments and to serve as a basis to adopt measures to manage risks. The European Food Safety Authority will play a key role in assessing this information.

The second law is a regulation to reduce the occurrence of zoonotic agents, prioritising salmonella. It will apply to a major source of contamination at primary production and includes a procedure to set targets for zoonotic agents other than salmonella. The pathogen-reducing targets will be set after an investigation on the prevalence of the pathogen in all the Member States has been conducted.

In order to achieve the reduction targets, Member States will need to adopt national control programmes and encourage the private sector to collaborate. For trade between Member States and with third countries, certification of salmonella status will be made obligatory according to the specified time schedule.

"This legislation demonstrates how the Commission's 'farm to fork' approach is being implemented in practice to ensure safe food for consumers,"​ said David Byrne, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection.

Infection in the consumer usually happens as a result of eating products of animal origin or direct contact with an infected animal. Salmonella, which is the priority target, can be found in food products such as raw eggs, poultry, pork and beef. Campylobacter is mainly found in chicken meat and its main symptom in humans is diarrhoea, although it can sometimes lead to a nerve disorder and paralysis in rare cases. Listeria and toxin producing E.coli are two other common infections.

Pathogen reduction in animals is the most effective way to prevent the spread of infection via food, which is why, claims the Commission, the proposed regulation sets up a framework for a pathogen reduction policy. At the same time, the proposed directive sets up a system for monitoring certain zoonotic agents throughout the human food and animal feed chain.

Under the current EU legislation, found in Directive 92/117, there are rules for the compulsory monitoring of four zoonotic agents (salmonellosis, brucellosis, trichinosis and tuberculosis due to Mycobacterium bovis) as well as voluntary monitoring for others.

However, foodborne outbreaks and monitoring of anti-microbial resistance are not covered, making it difficult to harmonise schemes. According to the Commission, the new Directive, which will replace Directive 92/117, will make such harmonisation possible. Certain EU states already go beyond current legislation on a voluntary basis, but currently without EU financing.

Related topics Regulation