Food safety agency recommends application of international standards

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Foodborne illness, Food, Efsa

Food processors should be monitored to ensure they apply proper
manufacturing and hygienicpractices throughout their plants says an
EU food safety panel.

The recommendation is one of a series of opinions published yesterday by the European Food SafetyAuthority (EFSA) as part of the bloc's programme to prevent and reduce animal diseases that can betransmitted to humans. Such foodborne zoonoses, such as Salmonella enteritidis, Campylobacter spp.and Listeria monocytogenes, cause about 380,000 EU residents to fall sick each year.

The recommendations, some of which deal with in-plant processes, are sent to the EuropeanCommission and the bloc's legislative bodies, and if approved, could result in new regulations forthe food industry.

EFSA's scientific panels on biological hazards and animal health recommended that one way ofpreventing such pathogens from being transmitted through the food chain is for plants to applyinternational standards on good manufacturing and hygienic practices, and hazard analysis critical control point(HACCP) analysis. HACCP is an international standard for food safety procedures in processing plants.

The panels also recommended that the principles and official controls should be "applied effectively and monitored closely" to decrease the proportion of foods with high prevalencesor concentrations of zoonotic agents.

Other EFSA recommendations include support for the setting of targets for reducing Salmonella in laying hen flocks,as contaminated eggs are a major source of the pathogen.

As contaminated poultry meat is identified as a major source of Salmonella Enteritidis and SalmonellaTyphimurium, EFSA also supports setting targets for reducing Salmonella spp. in poultry flocks.

Since contaminated poultry meat is also a major source of Campylobacter spp., EFSA recommends measures to reduce Campylobacter spp. at different stages along thefood chain.

The food safety agency also supports investigation into why children have an apparently higher incidence of infectionfrom Salmonella spp., Yersinia spp., and VTEC.

The agency calls for more regulatory action to reduce Listeria monocytogenes along the foodchain, through monitoring and the application of international hygenic standards.

The importance and the role of contaminated water in the epidemiology of zoonoses and foodborne outbreaks require furtherclarification, EFSA stated in the report.

Other recommendations include ones on reducing antimicrobial use in animals, and the developmentof strategies to prevent development of fluoroquinolone resistance.

EU member countries also need a common strategy on data collection, monitoring and reportingfoodborne zoonoses in the bloc to prevent the underreporting of incidents.

Data on the origin of implicated food should be included when reporting on the identification of food sources foroutbreaks, EFSA stated.

The two most commonly reported zoonotic diseases in 2004 were salmonellosis and campylobacteriosis,accounting for 192,703 and 183,961 of reported cases respectively.

According to the EFSA opinion, the major sources of Salmonella are contaminated eggs and egg products and contaminated poultry meat.

Listeriosis which is a cause of severe disease in humans, accounted for 107 deaths, the highest number of reported human fatalitiesfrom zoonoses.

The recommendations were made in co-operation with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC),which provided input on the recommendations related to human data.

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