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On the trail of pathogens in meat, eggs and raw milk

41/2019, 31.10.2019

The BfR symposium on current trends and causes of foodborne disease outbreaks

To make food even safer for humans, experts from scientific institutions, food regulatory authorities and the business community will discuss current developments and strategies at the "Zoonoses and Food Safety" Symposium at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) on 4 and 5 November 2019, in Berlin-Marienfelde. Because some micro-organisms in food can cause health problems. Campylobacter in raw milk, salmonella in eggs or listeria in ready-to-eat foods often lead to outbreaks affecting numerous patients. In the case of Listeria, this includes an above-average number of deaths. The BfR has developed a digital tool to help clarify disease outbreaks. "The FoodChain-Lab software allows us to track products from the manufacturer to the epicentre of cases of illness," says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "We supply our innovative software to interested users worldwide." The tool compares the genetic profile of the pathogens determined in the laboratory with the delivery dates of the food in question, thus proving the source of contamination. The BfR continues to develop the user-friendly software and train civil authorities in its use to ensure rapid and reliable information.

Even though Salmonella control in poultry has reduced the number of human infections for years now, Salmonella remains an important issue. A prolonged foodborne salmonellosis outbreak will be reported at the meeting. The meeting will also discuss strategies to reduce Salmonella in pork.

Another focus is on Campylobacter, which causes the most bacterial foodborne infections in Germany, with about 70,000 cases each year, especially in infants and young adults. Campylobacteriosis outbreaks have occurred in Germany in recent years, often in infants or school children who consumed raw milk from farm vending machines on school trips. To reduce human Campylobacter infections, a "one health approach" introduces new strategies for prevention, control and therapy from combined veterinary, human and environmental science research.

In addition, the focus is shifting more and more to viruses in food as the number of human hepatitis E infections in Germany has been increasing significantly in recent years. These are mainly caused by insufficiently cooked liver and raw sausages, i.e. by the consumption of meat, offal and products made from infected pigs or wild boars. Furthermore, a foodborne outbreak of hepatitis A will be reported.

Although game meat such as deer, roe deer and wild boar is rarely consumed by most people, it is becoming increasingly popular. Initial study results of the BfR on the occurrence of parasites in wild animals in the German federal state of Brandenburg show that wild animals may be infected with toxoplasma and wild boars may carry Duncker’s muscle fluke. The studies form the basis for deriving possible health risks for humans.

Investigations of other pathogens and strategic approaches to early risk detection round off the programme.

The conference is aimed at interested parties from scientific institutions, food safety laboratories, regional authorities and food businesses from German-speaking regions. A simultaneous translation of the English contributions will be provided.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. 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.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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