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Poultry Health & Disease
on June 29, 2009

EU's salmonella down, campylobacter on rise

Investigation into zoonotic diseases in Europe shows highest proportion of infection among poultry and pig meat.

A study into zoonoses based on data collected in 2007 has found that campylobacteriosis was again the most frequently reported zoonotic disease in humans in the European Union, while salmonellosis remained the second-most commonly recorded.

The 27 EU member states submitted information on the occurrence of zoonoses and zoonotic agents to the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority during 2007, with further information from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Four non-EU states also provided data.

An increased number of cases of campylobacteriosis was reported for the year, with 200,507 confirmed cases reported. Salmonellosis, however, continued to decrease, with 151,995 confirmed human cases.

In foodstuffs, the highest proportion of campylobacter positive samples was, once again, reported in fresh poultry meat, where, on average, 26% of samples were positive. Campylobacter was also detected from live poultry, pigs and cattle. The reported proportion of campylobacter positive samples during 2007 remained high and no overall drop was apparent.

Salmonella was most often found in fresh poultry and pig meat, where positive samples, on average 5.5% and 1.1% were detected, respectively. Some states said 0.8% of table eggs were positive. Across animal populations, salmonella was most frequently detected in poultry.

The decrease in the notification rate of salmonellosis cases in humans in the EU continued in 2007. The view that the major sources of infections in humans are eggs and pig meat was supported by data. It was rarely seen in other foodstuffs.

Campylobacteriosis was the most common zoonotic disease in humans, with 19 member states reporting an increase in the number of cases. The occurrence of campylobacter was high in broiler meat and broiler flocks, supporting the view that broiler and other poultry meat are important sources of infection.


A total of 151,995 confirmed cases of human salmonellosis was reported in the EU in 2007. The notification rate of 31.1 cases per 100,000 head of population ranged from 2.9 to 171.6 confirmed cases per population of 10,000. Germany accounted for 36.4% of all reported cases, whereas the notification rate was highest in the Czech Republic.

In 2007, there was a 7.3% decrease in the notification rate from 2006 (with the new member states included in 2006 to facilitate comparison), and this was part of a significant, decreasing trend over the past four years. As in previous years, S. enteriditis and S. typhimurium were the most frequently reported serovars (81% of all known serovars in human cases).

A wide range of foodstuffs was tested for salmonella by the EU's member states, with the majority coming from various types of meat and meat products. As in previous years, findings most frequently came from investigations of poultry meat, followed by pig meat. The highest proportions of positive samples were also observed in these food categories.

Most member states reported data on salmonella in broiler meats and the overall proportion of positive samples in fresh broiler meat was 5.5% at EU level varying between zero and 55.6% across member states. The bacterium was also observed on average in 6.8% of non-ready-to-eat meals (non-RTE) products of broiler meat and in 0.2% of RTE products at EU level. Salmonella contamination in non-RTE turkey meats was at the same level as in broiler meat, being 6.8% (zero to 14.3%) in 2007.

For those member states that reported data on table eggs, no major changes were observed in the proportion of salmonella positive samples compared with previous years. Overall, 0.8% (zero to 5.8%) of tested egg units were found to be positive, the same level as in 2006.

The new salmonella control programme in breeding flocks of Gallus gallus was first made mandatory in 2007 to meet reduction targets.

The target states that the occurrence of S. enteriditis, S. hadar, S. infantis, S. typhimurium and S. virchow should be reduced to 1% or less in adult breeding flocks comprising at least 250 birds by December 31, 2009.

Fifteen member states have reported a prevalence of the five serovars that was lower than target, whereas eight states reported prevalence of the five serovars ranging from 1.1% to 15.4%.

Due to the more sensitive testing scheme for the control programmes for breeding flocks in 2007, the results were not fully comparable with data from previous years. However, the results indicate that the improved status of salmonellla in parent-breeding flocks observed from 2005 to 2006 continued in 2007.

A total of 4.3% (ranging between zero and 27.1%) of the tested laying hen flocks were found to be infected in 2007 in reporting member states, higher than in the two previous years.

For broilers, the observed proportion of salmonella positive flocks in 2007 remained at near the same level as in 2006 (3.7% vs. 3.4%) in states with control or monitoring plans. The reported prevalence in broiler flocks varied between zero and 25.3%.

For 2004 to 2007, no trends in the occurrence of salmonella in member states was evident for laying hen flocks, but there seems to be a decreasing, though not statistically significant, trend for broiler flocks.

Of the tested turkey flocks, 7.8% (0.1% to 14.8%) were salmonella positive and for ducks and geese, 10.6% and 9.3% of the flocks were infected, respectively.

An EU-wide salmonella baseline survey was conducted in breeding and production flocks of turkeys in 2006 and 2007. The EU-weighted mean prevalence of salmonella in breeding flocks was 13.6% and in production turkey flocks it was 30.7%. Prevalence was, in most cases, much higher in the baseline survey compared with routine monitoring results.


In total, 200,507 confirmed cases of campylobacteriosis were reported by 24 member states, a 14.2% rise from 2006. Most states saw more cases in 2007 than in previous years, although Germany accounted for 56% of the gain.

Children under five years had the highest notification rate (120 cases per 100,000 people). Other age groups varied between circa 32 and 53 cases per 100,000 people.

Broiler meat was the most frequently sampled food category in 2007 and the reported cases of campylobacter was at the same high level as in previous years. On average, 26% of fresh broiler meat samples tested campylobacter-positive at EU level, and findings ranged from zero to 86.5%. No overall trend was seen in the proportion of positive broiler meat samples from 2004 to 2007.

In other poultry meat, contamination was similar to broiler meat. In pig meat and bovine meat, campylobacter was detected less frequently: 0.9% and 1.2%, respectively.

In 2007, most of the data on campylobacter in animals was from investigations of broilers. The prevalence of campylobacter positive broiler flocks was high: 25.2% at EU level ranging from zero to 82.2%. However, lower prevalence in broiler flocks was seen in some Nordic and Baltic countries.

Estimates put the number of cases of human campylobacteriosis per annum in the EU27 at 9 million.
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