These findings are published in the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI)'s first national zoonosis report, which outlines the incidence of infections and diseases transmissible from animals to humans. The Report on Zoonoses in Ireland 2000 & 2001 is the first co-ordinated report gathering results from all national agencies involved in monitoring zoonosis data.
It details the occurrence of zoonoses infections that pose a considerable health risk including Salmonella, E. coli O157:H7, Tuberculosis and Weil's disease. Just 363 cases of Salmonella reported in 2002, compared with 428 in 2001 and 640 in 2000.
"Already from this first report we can see that there are improvements in certain areas," said the FSAI's chief specialist of food science, Dr Wayne Anderson. "In particular, the reduction in the incidence of human infection with Salmonella typhimurium in 2001 is very welcome."
These food poisoning statistics reflect a decline in the number of cases of Salmonella in meat production in the US. Agriculture secretary Ann Veneman recently announced that the rate of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry in the States has dropped by 66 per cent over the past six years and by 16 per cent compared with 2002."These figures demonstrate that strong, science based enforcement of food safety rules is driving down the rate of Salmonella," said agriculture undersecretary for food safety Dr Elsa Murano. "These data validate our scientific approach to protecting public health through safer food."
But while the Irish report details a number of positive findings, there are also some worrying features. These include the reported cases of E. coli O157, which increased from 42 human cases in 2000 compared to 52 in 2001.
"We also know that preliminary results for 2002 show some 69 confirmed cases," said Anderson. "Campylobacter is also a concern. In 2001, there were 1,286 reports of food poisoning cases due to Campylobacter compared to 1,613 in 2000. This slow level of decrease is concerning."
The incidence rates of human infections were highest in the summer months coinciding with higher ambient temperatures, outdoor cooking and increased use of pre-prepared food. "This trend suggests that individuals and the food industry alike need to be far more cautious and vigilant during these months when cooking and preparing food," said Anderson.
The report was a joint collaboration coordinated by the FSAI and involved the National Disease Surveillance Centre (NDSC), which collects information on human infections and the Department of Agriculture and Food (DAF), which provides data on zoonotic agents in animals and feed materials.
According Anderson, this, and future reports will be an important tool in the management and control of these diseases in Ireland. The study will become an annual zoonoses report to serve as an information resource for consumer protection, public health and regulatory bodies involved with food safety.
The full publication Report on Zoonoses in Ireland 2000 & 2001 is available from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland.