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Salmonella in pork – still a risk

06/2005, 12.02.2005

In January 2005 there were frequent cases of human disease caused by a rare type of Salmonella. The findings available up to now indicate that raw pork espacially minced meat is the cause. Salmonellosis is an infectious disease in man which can lead to diarrhoea, vomiting, headaches, fever and exhaustion as well as to more serious problems. That’s why the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) again advises against eating raw pork.

Salmonella are widespread. They belong to the group of zoonotic pathogens. Zoonoses are infections which are transmitted from animals to man. The foods most frequently affected are, therefore, those of animal origin. In the case of the recent infections with Salmonella bovismorbificans, a rare type, raw pork was also identified as the cause. The infection is not usually detected in the animals themselves, i.e. the pigs or also poultry as they do not manifest any symptoms of the disease.

In conjunction with the Infection Protection Act which entered into force in 2001, selected infectious diseases in humans are notified to the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin. They identify increased incidences of infections, particularly the ones caused by rare types of Salmonella. In 2004 a total of 60,000 cases were recorded. This makes salmonellosis the most frequent bacterial foodborne infectious disease in Germany. Many cases of disease are not recognised; there is a high number of unreported cases. This constitutes a major challenge for science since the goal is to further eradicate this infectious disease, too.

The 5th World Congress for Foodborne Infections and Intoxications, which was held at BfR in Berlin from 11 to 16 June 2004, confirmed the global importance of Salmonella infections. Scientists in many countries are, therefore, working to identify the causes, type the bacteria and, last but not least, control this disease.

Food production, storage and preparation are sensitive areas in which risks could be considerably reduced in recent years thanks to increasingly effective hygiene standards. However, this must not lead to a situation where attention and care when dealing with foods should be relaxed. Each consumer can contribute to his/her own safety when handling food.

BfR draws attention to the fact that when handling food strict cleanliness and hygiene should be practised. Particular attention should be paid to the following measures:

  • Do not eat raw meat, in particular raw pork in any form (minced pork, spicy minced pork, sausage meat, etc.).
  • Heat meat, minced meat and fresh sausages thoroughly during boiling, frying and grilling.
  • Do not leave foods which must be cooled outside the fridge for too long.
  • Set fridge temperature below 7 °C and below 4 °C for sensitive foods (e.g. raw meat, fish products).
  • Eat sensitive foods as soon as possible.
  • Pay attention to personal hygiene when handling foods.
  • Keep raw foods of animal origin and vegetables and fruit to be consumed raw (lettuce, etc.) away from ready-to-eat products.
  • Thoroughly wash all kitchen appliances (knives, chopping boards, worktops, etc.) each time you use them and pay attention to general cleanliness in the kitchen (detergents, cleaning devices, dish towels, sponges, brushes, etc.).