EU germ threats ranked, with STEC now third

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Shiga-toxin infected beef has been a cause of concern
Shiga-toxin infected beef has been a cause of concern

Related tags Food safety hygiene & cleaning

Shiga-toxin-producing E.coli (STEC) are now the third most common cause of foodborne disease, with campylobacter strains first and strains of salmonella second, according to the EU One Health 2018 Zoonoses Report.

The study covered the whole of 2018. It was published on 12 December and credited improved lab techniques, making the detection of sporadic cases easier, as one reason for the increase to 8,161 confirmed human cases of STEC infections.

The rise represented a 37% increase on report cases in 2017. Shiga-toxin-infected beef is a major cause of concern, according to a report published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation earlier this year​.

The development means that STEC has replaced Yersiniosis in the third place slot.

Campylobacteriosis remained the most commonly reported gastrointestinal infection in humans in the EU, with 246,571 reported cases. Salmonellosis was the second most commonly reported (91,857 cases reported). Nearly one in three foodborne outbreaks in the EU in 2018 were caused by salmonella, the annual EU report catalogued.

Salmonella and eggs

Slovakia, Spain and Poland accounted for 67% of the 1,581 Salmonella​ outbreaks. These outbreaks were mainly linked to eggs.

In 2018, EU Member States reported 5,146 foodborne outbreaks affecting 48,365 people. A foodborne disease outbreak is an incident during which at least two people contract the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink.

“Findings from our latest Eurobarometer show that less than one-third of European citizens rank food poisoning from bacteria among their top five concerns when it comes to food safety,"​ said EFSA’s chief scientist Marta Hugas. "The number of reported outbreaks suggests that there’s room for raising awareness among consumers as many foodborne illnesses are preventable by improving hygiene measures when handling and preparing food.”

The zoonoses report is published by the European Food Safety Authority and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control​. 

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