Scientists from around the world have been meeting in Germany this week to set research priorities on a broad range of zoonoses — food borne diseases that are transmissible from animals to humans.
Globalisation and integrated markets are rapidly changing the way food borne pathogens travel from country to country. Driven by a raft of legislation processors are increasingly looking for ways to cut down on zoonotic contamination of their products.
Scientists from the EU zoonoses network Med-Vet-Net and experts from the American Food Safety Research Consortium (FSRC) met this week in Berlin to identify the main risks to health from zoonotic pathogens.
The need for international cooperation is important in understanding the broader consequences of food borne and zoonotic infections. More research is needed on the incidence of diseases and their effect on the quality of life and related costs for treatment, said Jurgen Kundke, a spokeperson for the meeting.
“We have similar problems and this whole process is to identify risk areas within the farm to fork system,” Kundke told FoodProductionDaily.com. “Globalisation is changing the way we have to look at pathogens now we have food being exchanged across borders and zoologic pathogens that are causing deaths, casualties and a declining standard of living.”
The risk of pathogens traveling across borders has become evident during the recent outbreak of avian influenza worldwide. However diseases such as Salmonella, Campylobacter and E.coli have a higher rate of incidence and much larger impact on consumer health and the economy, Kundke said.
In Germany alone 52,000 cases of Salmonellosis were reported last year. Across the EU Campylobacteriosis cases are on the rise, making it the most common food borne disease in Europe.
The conference, held at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment’s (BfR)in Berlin, is also being attended by professionals from Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
The meeting will also allow for new EU member states to integrate their country’s research into an overarching EU zoonoses network, said Med-Vet-Net’s spokesperson Teresa Belcher.
“It’s no longer a country specific problem. It’s an international problem,” Belcher told FoodProductionDaily.com. “We need to understand how to measure the impact of each pathogen. One pathogen might cause a non-fatal illness, but medical care costs could be a burden to the economy.”
Integrating statistics on emerging infections will allow for better vigilance over high-risk exported products. These products, such as rotten milk cheese produced in France and consumed worldwide, can potentially cause outbreaks of Listeriosis and other diseases.
The scientists also have to account for consumer habits such as Germany’s high consumption rate of raw meat and the US demand for beef and chicken and their affect on localised outbreaks of food borne disease.
“There are also different approaches to identifying diseases,” said Kundke. “The US approach is to start at the processing plants whereas the EU model deals with livestock at the stables and identifying and dealing with pathogens within the herds.”
Currently, the US is implementing tougher testing standards to stem a spike in Salmonella infections at processing plants. EU regulatory authorities in member states have also been increasing their regulation of the industry due to increases in Campylobacteriosis.
The three-day meeting in Berlin ends today.