EFSA - External Report


The Directive 2003/99/EC on the monitoring of zoonoses and zoonotic agents establishes the Community system for the monitoring and collection of information on zoonoses. In Article 9 of this Directive, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is assigned the task of examining and analysing the data collected and preparing the summary report on the trends and sources of zoonoses, zoonotic agents and antimicrobial resistance in the Community (Community Summary Report).

Data collection for some food-borne pathogens, such as Salmonella spp., Campylobacter spp., Listeria monocytogenes and verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) is mandatory, whereas the monitoring of Yersinia enterocolitica is mandatory only if the epidemiological situation in a Member State so warrants. Member States should aim at collecting relevant and comparable data. To this end, harmonisation of sampling protocols and laboratory procedures is warranted but has not been established so far.

The objective of this project was to develop harmonised survey methods which should be understood as best practices for carrying out national surveys in foods on a voluntary basis. The methods should be applicable to all relevant pathogens in all European Union Member States. Furthermore, protocols should be compatible with relevant Community legislation and take into account technical specifications developed by EFSA. Finally, the proposal should suggest how to analyse the data collected at national and Community levels. Following these guidelines to the best extent possible should provide representative results in a cost-effective way.

The first step comprised the collation of all information of current survey and surveillance methods in the European Union Member States during the different stages of the food chain. The second step set out data needs for meeting the requirements of Directive 2003/99/EC. The third step was about establishing criteria for deciding on what relevant elements to include in the survey design. These served as a basis for the choice of the rationale of the proposed survey methods and zoonotic agents, foodstuffs or stages in the food chain for specific purposes. Finally, the identified criteria were applied and harmonised survey methods for the monitoring of food-borne pathogens in relevant food categories at different stages of the food chain were developed and discussed with a group of Member States’ experts. The results of the discussions were implemented in the revision of the protocols.

A set of nine different survey protocols was developed. All protocols have the objective of estimating the prevalence of specific pathogens in specified foodstuffs at a specific point in the food chain in the Member State:

  1. Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp. on broiler and turkey carcasses at slaughter;
  2. Salmonella spp. and Campylobacter spp. in broiler and turkey meat at retail;
  3. VTEC on cattle carcasses at slaughter;
  4. VTEC in bovine meat at retail;
  5. Salmonella spp. and Yersinia enterocolitica on pig carcasses at slaughter;
  6. Salmonella spp. and Yersinia enterocolitica in pig meat at retail;
  7. Salmonella spp. in table eggs in packing centres;
  8. Salmonella spp. in table eggs at retail; and
  9. Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat products at retail.

Each protocol contains details regarding sampling plan (target population, study population, sampling design and sample size), sample collection (type and detail of sample, sample information, transport of samples), laboratory analysis of samples (receipt, preparation and microbiological analysis of samples, laboratory information, storage of strains) and the reporting of data (differentiating between information to be reported at national and Community levels).

Together with the set of survey protocols, the rationale behind the chosen options is explained and guidance is provided when similar protocols are to be prepared by the Member States.

The Member States may wish to agree beforehand which protocols to run in common in a particular year, but each Member State may also select from the set of protocols those surveys which are considered of highest national relevance and feasible taking into account resources available.

The repetition of selected surveys after a certain period of time would allow to compare results and to support trend-watching or trend-analysis. All this may improve considerably the quality of the data collected and contribute to a more precise picture of the situation across the European Union.

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