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The salmonella control programme is working: fewer salmonella detected on poultry

43/2011, 21.12.2011

Having evaluated the data collected all over Germany for 2010, the BfR confirms a trend towards less contamination

Salmonella are among the common bacteria found on food which can cause serious gastrointestinal infections in humans. For this reason, the European Commission launched an EU-wide salmonella control programme in 2008. The annual national status report forms part of this programme. In Germany, the competent state authorities and food business operators take samples in agricultural establishments. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) then evaluates the received data: in 2010, 0.3 % of chicken breeding flocks and 0.2% of broiler flocks showed levels of salmonella relevant to the control programme. In the preceding year, the figures had been 0.9 % and 0.4 % respectively. “These figures consolidate a trend which already became manifest in previous years. Fewer and fewer poultry flocks are contaminated with salmonella, meaning that the control programme is working”, says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment has analysed the data for 2010 on salmonella detection in poultry. The samples had been collected from more than 10,000 poultry flocks by the competent authorities and food business operators as part of the EU-wide salmonella control programme. Findings: less and less poultry in Germany is contaminated with salmonella. The figures for 2010 clearly indicate that salmonella control has been successful for breeding poultry, laying hens, broilers and turkeys. Compared to the salmonella findings in 2009 and 2008 and those of the baseline studies from the years 2004 to 2007, the numbers for the control-relevant salmonella types S. Infantis, S. Hadar, S. Virchow as well as S. Enteritidis and S. Typhimurium are on the decrease.

Control-relevant salmonella were detected in 0.3 % (2009: 0.9 %), of breeding chickens and 0.2 % (2009: 0.4 %) of broilers of the sampled flocks. For laying hens, the detection rate was 1.9 % and is thus also lower than in previous years. In 2009 control-relevant salmonella was found in 4.8 % and in 2008 in 2.7 % of the sampled laying hens. For breeding turkeys, no salmonella was detected, as had already been the case in the baseline studies. In contrast, low levels of salmonella (0.6 %) were detected in fattening turkeys. The defined common goal has thus been complied with / reached. This goal is that a maximum of 1 % of the sampled breeding chicken, broiler and turkey flocks are contaminated with control-relevant salmonella. For laying hens, a reduction of the rate compared to the previous year by at least 10 % applies (for example from 4.8 % to 4.3 %).

In accordance with Regulation (EC) No. 2160/2003, the salmonella control programme comprises a monitoring programme in addition to protective measures against salmonella such as the duty to vaccinate laying hens in countries with high salmonella rates and strict rules governing feed. This monitoring programme provides for member states to draw up a national annual report on the proportion of salmonella-positive flocks for breeding poultry, laying hens, broilers as well as breeding and fattening turkeys. These reports were included in the analysis for the first time this year. Since 2008, the competent authorities of the states and also food business operators have taken samples following a clearly defined survey plan. These samples are then analysed in accredited laboratories. The states in turn send the data to the BfR for assessment. The BfR evaluates the data and submits its status report to the European Food Safety authority (EFSA).

Salmonella can be found either in the organs, in the intestine or on the feathers of the animals. They can get into the inside of the egg or onto the egg shell while the egg is still inside the hen. During slaughtering, they can additionally be spread to the carcass, thereby entering the food chain. In humans, they can cause severe gastrointestinal illness.

The BfR recommends that in preparing dishes which are eaten without reheating (e.g. desserts, baked goods with non-heated fillings or coatings, mayonnaise), no raw eggs are used, if at all possible. If eggs are sufficiently heated during cooking, baking or frying, any existing germs are killed. Vulnerable individuals (infants, sick persons and the elderly) should only eat thoroughly cooked eggs. This is the case if the egg white and yolk are completely curdled.

As a general rule, when preparing poultry meat, observing high standards of kitchen hygiene is especially important: poultry meat should only be eaten once it has been thoroughly cooked. The pathogens are killed when a core temperature of 70 °C is maintained for two minutes. In addition, the meat should be stored and prepared separately from other food. It must be ensured under all circumstances that knives, cutting boards and hands which have come into contact with raw poultry are thoroughly cleaned before they touch other food, especially if those other foods are not heated up before consumption such as salad. Good kitchen hygiene helps prevent the spread of salmonella to other foods.

About the BfR

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

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