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Acta Clin Belg. 2000 Nov-Dec;55(6):300-6.

Analysis of foodborne disease in Belgium in 1997.

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  • 1Scientific Institute of Public Health-(IPH), Brussels.


Foodborne disease represents a major problem for public health in industrialized countries, albeit with a low lethality. Foodborne diseases are defined as a group of viral, bacterial or parasitic gastrointestinal infections transmitted by means of food. Proper food-hygiene practices and surveillance of individual diseases and in particular outbreaks are the first steps in targeting their prevention. The incidence of this illness is difficult to estimate. In the Netherlands a yearly incidence of gastrointestinal infections of 500 per 1,000 inhabitants is estimated, of which most are foodborne. To set up priorities in the actions to undertake, to establish the most frequent risks, to develop preventive efforts and to answer to international requirements, accurate data on foodborne disease from Belgium are required. In order to co-ordinate the initiatives in the Belgian context, a working group was set up in 1995. In 1997 a total of 2,013 persons with foodborne disease were identified as part of 140 outbreaks, 22 of which occurred with 10 cases or more. Salmonella Enteritidis (88 outbreaks) was identified as the main pathogen in foodborne disease, followed by S. Typhimurium (11), S. Hadar (4). Eggs and meat products were identified as the main food-items involved, although it remains difficult to obtain proper intervention studies allowing to identify the specific cause(s). In 1997, a total of 12,732 human Salmonella isolates and 5,617 Campylobacter isolates were identified by the respective national reference laboratories. Salmonella isolates from Belgium accounted in 1997 for more than a fifth of all Salmonella isolates in the EU. The final objective of the working group is the implementation of a surveillance system for all risk factors concerned with the development of food-related illness, including an early warning system and an efficient analysis of microbiological criteria relating to human health, food and food production, including livestock. An essential element of this surveillance is communication of the results, risks and measures for prevention between all the departments, institutions and public health authorities concerned.

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