Most common foodborne infections in Denmark 2016. Source: Annual Report 2016

Campylobacter to blame for most foodborne infections in Denmark

Thursday 29 Jun 17

Contact

Birgitte Helwigh
Senior Scientific Officer
National Food Institute
+45 40 21 19 62

Contact

Birgitte Borck Høg
Senior Academic Officer
National Food Institute
+45 35 88 70 66

Contact

Luise Müller
Epidemiologist
Statens Serum Institut
+45 32 68 85 90

CONTACT

For questions on Annual Report:
Birgitte Helwigh

For questions on campylobacter
Birgitte Borck Høg

For questions on disease outbreaks
Luise Müller

Campylobacter is to blame for more than 4,600 foodborne infections in Denmark and is thus still the most common cause of foodborne disease. This is one of the findings of the annual report for 2016 on the incidence of diseases that can be transmitted from animals and food to humans. The report was prepared by the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, in cooperation with Statens Serum Institut – the national institute of public health – and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration. Researchers, government agencies and industry are considering initiatives that can lead to the bacteria making fewer Danes fall ill.

Every year, Danes fall ill from food they eat. Accounting for more than 4,677 registered cases of illness in 2016, campylobacter continues to be the leading cause of foodborne infections in Denmark. This represents an increase of more than 7% from 2015. However, the increase may be due to the fact that more sensitive diagnostic methods are being used.

In 2016, four times as many Danes fell ill with a campylobacter infection than a salmonella infection.

Working together to fight campylobacter

Researchers, authorities and industry in Denmark have long worked together to collect data and to develop methods with the intention of reducing the risk of Danes falling ill with a campylobacter infection.

"Based on the Danish experience with virtually eradicating salmonella in broilers and eggs produced in Denmark, researchers, authorities and the industry have joined forces to figure out how we ensure that fewer people fall ill to campylobacter," says senior scientific officer Birgitte Helwigh from the National Food Institute.

Salmonella often an unwanted souvenir

In 2016 a total of 1,074 salmonella infections have been reported among Danes. As in previous years, travel abroad is the main cause associated with these infections. More than half of the infections (55%) are travel-related, and people most often bring the infection back from Thailand (19%), Turkey (13%) and Spain (5%).

"Based on the Danish experience with virtually eradicating salmonella in broilers and eggs produced in Denmark, researchers, authorities and the industry have joined forces to figure out how we ensure that fewer people fall ill to campylobacter"

The report’s salmonella source account estimates which sources have caused salmonella infection in Danes. Of the 1,074 infections, domestically produced pork is estimated to be the food source, which is the main cause of infections in 2016. A total of 6% of all cases are estimated to be caused by Danish pork, closely followed by imported chicken and pork (4% and 3.7% respectively).

Disease outbreaks know no borders

A salmonella outbreak in salami sticks, which caused nine Danish children to become ill, was solved in 2016 because the Swedish authorities notified the Danish authorities. In the same year, Denmark was part of an international investigation of a salmonella outbreak in Polish eggs, and a smaller – but unusual – outbreak, where several people fell ill with a salmonella infection from their pet snakes. 

"In Europe we have an alarm system, where we warn each other if we discover an outbreak of disease or suspect that a particular food is making people ill," epidemiologist Luise Müller from Statens Serum Institut explains.

"Because foodborne disease outbreaks know no borders, and foods are produced and sold to many countries at the same time, international cooperation is important if we are to find the sources of infection and stop outbreaks in time," Luise Müller adds.

Read more

See the full report on the National Food Institute’s website: Annual Report on Zoonoses in Denmark 2016 (pdf). You can also have the printed report posted to you by contacting Division Secretary Anne Jørgensen, anga@food.dtu.dk.

Annual Report on Zoonoses in Denmark 2016 was prepared by the National Food Institute, Technical University of Denmark, in cooperation with Statens Serum Institut and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration.

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24 NOVEMBER 2017