Cases of Salmonella Enteritidis acquired in the European Union (EU) have increased in humans by 3 percent since 2014 according to an annual report on zoonotic diseases, which is compiled by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In laying hens, the prevalence increased from 0.7 percent to 1.21 percent over the same period.

“The increase shown by our surveillance data is worrying and a reminder that we have to stay vigilant,” said Mike Catchpole, ECDC chief scientist. “Even in a state of high awareness and with national control programs for S. Enteritidis in place, there is a need for continuing risk management actions at the member state and EU level,” he added.

Marta Hugas, EFSA chief scientist, said: “The decrease of Salmonella has been a success story in the EU food safety system in the last 10 years. Recent S. Enteritidis outbreaks contributed to a change in this trend in humans and poultry. Further investigations by competent authorities in the field of public health and food safety will be crucial to understand the reasons behind the increase.”

There were 94,530 human cases of salmonellosis reported in the EU in 2016. S. Enteritidis – the most widespread type of Salmonella, accounted for 59 percent of all salmonellosis cases originating in the EU and is mostly associated with the consumption of eggs, egg products and poultry meat.

Salmonella foodborne outbreaks increasing

The 4,786 foodborne disease outbreaks reported in 2016 represent a slight increase in comparison with 2015 (4,362 outbreaks), but the figure is similar to the average number of outbreaks in the EU during 2010–2016.

Outbreaks due to Salmonella are on the rise, with S. Enteritidis causing one in six food-borne disease outbreaks in 2016.

Salmonella bacteria were the most common cause of food-borne outbreaks (22.3 percent), an increase of 11.5 percent when compared to 2015. They caused the highest burden in terms of numbers of hospitalizations (1,766; 45.6 percent of all hospitalized cases) and of deaths (10; 50 percent of all deaths among outbreak cases).

Salmonella in eggs caused the highest number of cases (1,882).

Campylobacter and Listeria

Campylobacter, the most reported foodborne pathogen in humans, was detected in 246,307 people, an increase of 6.1 percent when compared with 2015. Despite the high number of cases, fatalities were low (0.03 percent). Levels of Campylobacter are high in chicken meat.

Listeria infections, which are generally more severe, led to hospitalization in 97 percent of reported cases. In 2016, listeriosis continued to rise, with 2,536 cases (a 9.3 percent increase) and 247 deaths reported. Most deaths occur in people aged over 64 (fatality rate of 18.9 percent). People over 84 are particularly at risk (fatality rate of 26.1 percent). Listeria seldom exceeded legal safety limits in ready-to-eat foods.