Salmonella is a major cause of food-borne illness in humans. Farm animals and foods of animal origin are important sources of human Salmonella infections. Therefore, in order to reduce the incidence of human salmonellosis in the European Union, Community legislation foresees the setting of Salmonella reduction targets for food/animal populations, including breeding pigs. To underpin such targets, a series of baseline surveys have been conducted to ascertain the occurrence prior to the implementation of such Community legislation. This fifth European Union-wide baseline survey was carried out at farm level between January 2008 and December 2008 to determine the prevalence of Salmonella in pig breeding holdings. The herds were randomly selected from holdings constituting at least 80% of the breeding pig population in a Member State.
The overall European Union prevalence of Salmonella-positive holdings with breeding pigs was 31.8% and all but one participating Member State detected Salmonella in at least one holding. Twenty of the 24 Member States isolated Salmonella in breeding holdings and at European Union level 28.7% of the holdings was estimated to be positive for Salmonella. This prevalence varied from 0% to 64.0% among the Member States. The estimated European Union prevalence of breeding holdings positive to Salmonella Typhimurium and to Salmonella Derby was 7.8% and 8.9%, respectively.
Salmonella infection in breeding pigs may be transmitted to slaughter pigs through trade and movement of live animals and contamination of holding, transport, lairage and slaughter facilities. This may lead to Salmonella-contamination of pig meat and consequently to human disease. Further studies in surveillance and control methods for Salmonella in breeding pigs as well as in the public health importance of consumption of meat from culled breeding pigs are recommended. Also investigations on the epidemiology of monophasic Salmonella Typhimurium would be welcome. The results of this survey provide valuable information for the assessment of the impact of Salmonella transmission originating from holdings with breeding pigs as a source of Salmonella in the food chain. These baseline prevalence figures may be used for the setting of targets for the reduction of Salmonella in breeding pigs, to follow trends and to evaluate the impact of control programmes.