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Trends and sources of food-borne outbreaks in 2016

19 December 2017

The European Commission has published its summary report on trends and sources of zoonoses, zoonotic agents and food-borne outbreaks in 2016.

This report presents the results of the zoonoses monitoring activities carried out in 2016 in 37 European countries (28 Member States (MS) and nine non-MS).

In total, 4,786 food-borne outbreaks, including waterborne outbreaks, were reported in 2016. Salmonella was the most commonly detected causative agent.


Of the 2,429 units of vegetables tested, 0.21% was Salmonella positive. Among fruits, of the 1,200 tested units, none was positive for Salmonella, and the same was true for the 680 samples reported as ‘fruit and vegetables’.

L. monocytogenes

Of the 1,772 units of ‘ready to eat fruit and vegetables’ tested, 0.5% were positive. Some 1,042 units of  ‘ready to eat salads’ were tested, with 2% of samples reported as positive for L. moncytogenes.


All 925 samples of vegetables and 146 samples of fruit were negative when tested for STEC.

Strong-evidence of food vehicle sources

Sixty percent of all strong-evidence food-borne outbreaks were associated with food of animal origin. ‘Mixed foods’, ‘buffet meals’ and ‘other foods’ were linked to a third of outbreaks. 

The report cites the ‘many steps of food processing, manipulation and preservation’ as factors for a risk of post-harvest contamination and an increase in the bacteria or toxin load, as a consequence of factors such as cross-contamination, temperature abuse and food handling:

‘This finding reinforces the need to adopt strict hygiene procedures for food processing and suggests that efforts to control outbreaks implicating these foodstuffs should target the post-harvest steps of food production as well as the primary production level.’

In addition, the report cites the high incidence of cases of people having fallen ill after eating food at home, and the need to continue to give advice to consumers.

For more details, see the full report

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