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EU health and food safety experts warn of stubborn salmonella

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EU health and food safety experts warn of stubborn salmonella

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LONDON (Reuters) - The number of salmonella food poisoning cases in the European Union has risen by 3 percent since 2014 in a "worrying" reversal of a decade-long declining trend, EU health and food safety officials said on Tuesday.

Salmonella bacteria was the most common cause of food-borne illness in 2016, accounting for 22.3 percent of outbreaks, compared with 11.5 percent in 2015, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said in a report.

There were 94,530 human cases of salmonellosis reported in the EU in 2016, it said. Salmonella enteritidis, the most common type and one mostly linked with eating eggs and poultry, accounted for 59 percent of cases originating in the EU.

"The increase shown by our surveillance data is worrying and a reminder that we have to stay vigilant," said the ECDC's chief scientist, Mike Catchpole.

Salmonella food poisoning can cause diarrhoea, fever, stomach cramps and vomiting. These symptoms typically come between one and three days after infection and last four to seven days. More severe cases can cause death. A total of 1,766 people were admitted to hospital with salmonella in 2016 and there were 10 salmonella deaths.

The EFSA and ECDC report, which looked at outbreaks of food-borne disease in the EU, said that overall outbreak numbers were broadly stable, with 4,786 food-borne outbreaks in 2016 compared with 4,362 in 2015.

Campylobacter, common in chicken meat, caused a high number of infections, though fatalities were low, the report said.

Listeria infections, which are generally more severe, led to hospitalisation in 97 percent of reported cases. Listeriosis killed 247 people in the EU last year.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland; Editing by David Goodman)

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