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7the Report of the WHO Monitoring Programme on the Control of Foodborne Infections and Intoxications published on the BgVV Website

28/2000, 28.12.2000

As of now the country reports for the 7th Report of the WHO Monitoring Programme on the Control of Foodborne Infections and Intoxications can be accessed on the BgVV website. A full report will be available in the spring of 2001 in electronic and print form. It will cover the trends and developments in food infections and intoxications in Europe.

49 countries in the European WHO region plus Cyprus now take part in the monitoring programme for foodborne diseases. It was set up in 1980 by the World Health Organisation (WHO). The aim of the programme is to provide information in order to develop suitable measures for the prevention of foodborne diseases in European countries. The data of the individual countries are collected, evaluated and published in reports by the FAO/WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in Food Hygiene and Zoonoses in BgVV.

The 7th report covers the period from 1993 to 1998 and contains information about the causes of and epidemiological background to food infections and intoxications in the European WHO region in Cyprus. The report contains information about the number of cases of foodborne diseases. It names the pathogens and the foods involved. The epidemiological information also encompasses the place where the food was purchased, contaminated or consumed. Other factors are mentioned which contributed to the outbreaks of the disease, for instance inadequate refrigeration, insufficient heating or poor hygiene during processing.

The available data now confirm that salmonellae (70%) continues to be the most frequent cause of outbreaks of foodborne infections in Europe. Outbreaks are understood to mean infections involving several persons caused by the same food. If, however, we consider the total number of cases of disease including the individual cases notified, then the European trend shows that the incidence of salmonellosis is falling in many countries whereas infections with other pathogens like campylobacter are steadily rising. Overall, the campylobacter infections have overtaken salmonellosis in many countries. Trichina, shigella, Staphylococcus aureus, clostridia and listeria are also of relevance as pathogens.

The ranking of foods, by means of which the pathogen of food infection was passed on, is headed up by eggs and egg products and by dishes prepared with raw eggs. Meat and meat products are in second place. Frequent mention was also made of milk, fish, poultry and mushrooms.

Foodborne diseases occur in private homes, canteens, university restaurants and other mass catering facilities. Nonetheless, there are major differences within Europe. The site of the food infection is closely linked to regional lifestyle and dietary habits. For instance, in the Netherlands most people become infected in mass catering facilities (canteens or restaurants), in other countries mainly at home. Scandinavian countries mention infections suffered during travel as the main reason for foodborne disease. The primary contributory factors to the occurrence of foodborne disease are temperature mistakes during storage and preparation of food. Often, contaminated starting materials and incorrect handling are also responsible.

The data and facts presented in the 7th report can be an important source for public authorities and industry for the identification of critical points in respect of health risks in food collection, storage and preparation. They provide valuable information on modern overall concepts of risk assessment. Measures to prevent cases of foodborne disease start with the collection of food in the field or animal shed and end in the home of the consumer.


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