Food poisoning cases on the rise in Europe
Brussels -- The number of food poisoning cases in the European Union is on the rise with deaths among the elderly a growing cause for concern, health experts warned Tuesday.
Reported cases of campylobacter infections, usually picked up from raw or undercooked poultry meat and which cause diarrhea, cramps and fever, rose annually by some 25,000 in 2007, two major European health agencies said.
On the positive side, salmonella poisoning cases declined for the fourth year running, from 164,011 to 151,995, while listeria infections — the other common zoonotic disease — remained the same in 2006 and 2007.
Only 1,554 cases of listeria, often picked up from smoked fish or cheeses, were found, according to a report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).
But the disease resulted in most of the deaths; around one in five cases.
"We are particularly concerned by the high proportion of deaths amongst older people as a result of infection with listeria," said the ECDC’s head of surveillance, Andrea Ammon.
The experts found campylobacter, usually caught from unpasteurised milk or contaminated water but also in under-cooked meat, in 26 percent of raw poultry meat tested.
Salmonella was found in 5.5 percent of fresh poultry samples.
The bacteria are easily killed by cooking the meat properly.
More than a third of salmonella cases and over half the campylobacter infections were found in Germany, the report said.
Listeria was mostly found in Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg and Sweden.
The report also noted three cases of rabies, all contracted outside the EU.