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Int J Food Microbiol. 2001 Jul 20;67(1-2):1-17.

Implication of milk and milk products in food-borne diseases in France and in different industrialised countries.

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  • 1Agence Francaise de Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments (AFSSA), Laboratoire d'Etudes et de Recherches sur l'Hygiène et la Qualité des Aliments, Maisons-Alfort, France.


A study was carried out to estimate the proportion of diseases due to milk and milk products among food-borne diseases recorded in France and in other countries since 1980. Particular attention was given to whether the milk involved was heat-treated or not. Four etiologic agents were considered: Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, and pathogenic Escherichia coli. An overview of food-borne disease annual reports from seven countries indicated that milk and milk products were implicated in 1-5% of the total bacterial outbreaks; however, details about the type of product and milk involved were usually not provided. When considering 60 outbreaks and four single cases described in the literature and implicating milk and milk products, confirmed or suspected food vehicles were distributed as follows: milk, 39.1%, cheese, 53.1%, other milk products, 7.8%. Overall, 32.8% of the food vehicles were made from pasteurised milk; 37.5% from raw milk; 10.9% from milk stated as "unpasteurised"; and 18.8% from unspecified milk. Salmonella spp. were responsible for 29 outbreaks, L. monocytogenes for 10 outbreaks and four well-documented single cases, pathogenic E. coli for 11 outbreaks, and S. aureus for 10 outbreaks. Analysis of unpublished data about food-borne disease outbreaks, listeriosis excluded, collected by the coordinator of the French surveillance system from 1992 to 1997, revealed 69 documented outbreaks for which milk and milk products were confirmed as the vehicle by the isolation of the etiologic agent. The food vehicles were distributed as follows: milk, 10%; cheese, 87%; others, 3%. UHT milk accounted for 1.5%, raw milk and raw milk products for 48%, and milk and milk products from unspecified milk for 50.5% of the 69 outbreaks. S. aureus was by far the most frequent pathogen associated with these outbreaks (85.5% of the outbreaks), followed by Salmonella (10.1%). This study demonstrates the limitations of the surveillance systems and the difficulties in estimating the contribution of milk and milk products to food-borne diseases. In particular, it was not possible to find out in many outbreaks what heat treatment, if any, the milk had undergone.

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