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Attempt to Identify Sources of Food-Borne Pathogens

by 5m Editor
1 July 2010, at 9:22a.m.

DENMARK - The most important food sources for salmonellosis cases were eggs (32 per cent) and meat and poultry meat (15 per cent), and that the majority of the cases of campylobacteriosis were attributed to chicken (10 per cent), according to newly available research.

S. Monteiro Pires of the Technical University of Denmark in Søborg and colleagues there and in Parma, Italy have used outbreak data to attribute the sources of human salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis in Europe, and reported their results in a paper soon to be published in the journal, Foodborne Pathogens and Disease.

They explain that Salmonella and Campylobacter are the most important bacterial causes of foodborne illness in Europe. To identify and prioritise food safety interventions, it is important to quantify the burden of human foodborne illness attributable to specific sources.

Data from outbreak investigations are observed at the public health endpoint and can therefore be a direct measure of attribution at the point of exposure. An analysis or summary of outbreak investigations is useful for attributing illnesses to foods, but often the implicated foods in reported outbreaks are complex foods, containing several food items, many of which could be the specific source of the infection.

The researchers describe a method that is able to attribute human cases to specific food items contained in complex foods. The model is based on data from investigations of Salmonella and Campylobacter outbreaks in the European Union in 2005 and 2006.

The reporting of the causative vehicles for the outbreaks was not harmonized between and within countries, they say. Consequently, they organised the implicated foods in mutually exclusive food categories.

They estimated that the most important food sources for salmonellosis cases were eggs (32 per cent) and meat and poultry meat (15 per cent), and that the majority of the cases of campylobacteriosis were attributed to chicken (10 per cent).

For both pathogens, a large proportion of cases could not be linked to any source.

Among illnesses that could be attributed to a source, 58 per cent of salmonellosis cases were attributed to eggs, and 29 per cent of campylobacteriosis cases were attributed to chicken. Results also revealed regional differences in the relative importance of specific sources.

Monteiro Pires and co-authors explained that the method was of limited value to attribute human campylobacteriosis due to the limited number of outbreaks. However, they concluded that the approach could be applied to other foodborne pathogens, and is easily adaptable to countries having an appropriate number of reported outbreaks.

Reference

Monteiro Pires S., H. Vigre, P. Makela and T. Hald. 2010. Using outbreak data for source attribution of human salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis in Europe. Foodborne Pathogens and Disease. (online ahead of publication). doi:10.1089/fpd.2010.0564.

Further Reading

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