Poultry and eggs continue to cause substantial foodborne illnesses in the United States.
Findings published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that both campylobacter and salmonella enteritidis increased last year.
Campylobacter– with poultry as a major source – is still the most commonly identified foodborne illness since tracking began in 2013. Incidence levels rose by 12% compared with 2015-7 baseline figures. It causes diarrhoea, sometimes bloody, and 18% of people are hospitalised. Last August, the US Food Safety and Inspection Service began using a new testing method and in a study of that method, Campylobacter was isolated from 18% of chicken carcases and 16% of chicken parts sampled. FSIS currently makes aggregated test results available and intends to update performance standards for Campylobacter contamination.
The report added that the incidence of Enteritidis, the most common Salmonella subtype for which poultry and eggs are often the source, has not fallen in the past decade. Salmonella cases rose by 9% compared to 2015-7.
Last year, the USA suffered a multi-state outbreak of Enteritidis infections, which was traced to eggs from a farm that had not implemented the required egg safety measures after its size reached more than 3,000 hens. These rules were introduced by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2012 through the Egg Safety Rule, which requires preventive measures during the production of eggs in poultry houses and requires subsequent refrigeration during storage and transportation.
Chicken meat, says the report, is also an important source of Enteritidis infections. Last December, the FSIS reported that 22% of establishments that produce chicken parts failed to meet the Salmonella performance standard. The percentage of samples of chicken meat and intestinal contents that yielded Enteritidis were similar in 2018 compared to those during 2015-7.
However, there was better news with the decline in serotype Salmonella Typhimurium isolated from the same sources. This trend coincided with declines in Typhimurium human illnesses.
Changes in poultry production practices, including vaccination, might have resulted in these declines, the report notes, adding that in the United Kingdom vaccination of both broiler and layer chickens against Enteritidis, along with improved hygiene, was followed by a marked decrease in human Entertitidis infections.
In conclusion the report says there should be enhanced efforts targeting Campylobacter contamination of chicken; strengthening prevention measures during egg production, especially within small flocks; vaccinating poultry against Salmonella serotype Enteritidis and a drive to decrease all types of Salmonella contamination.
The report, “Preliminary Incidence and Trends of Infections with Pathogens Transmitted Commonly through Food – Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network, 10 US sites, 2015-18” can be found on the CDC website.