Animals can carry pathogens that can cause disease in humans. The diseases which they cause are known as zoonoses. In 2018 and 2019 the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority [Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority] (NVWA) investigated how often some of these pathogens occurred in broilers. This study involved broilers at 198 farms as well as 132 livestock farmers, family members and employees. RIVM assessed whether the same pathogens also occurred in these persons. Most of these pathogens usually cause diarrhoea, but the infections can sometimes be more severe. ESBL-producing bacteria were also assessed, as they are resistant to an important group of antibiotics.
A number of pathogens occur frequently in the investigated broilers. They are present in the animals’ intestines and therefore in the manure as well. Meat can become contaminated in the slaughterhouse if it comes into direct contact with the manure. People can prevent an infection by only eating chicken that has been thoroughly cooked. It is also important to prevent other food from coming into contact with raw meat.
Of the pathogens investigated, ESBL-producing bacteria were found most often, namely in the broilers on 36% of the farms. Among livestock farmers and family members, these bacteria were found in 7% of participants. This is comparable to the percentage in the general Dutch population.
Campylobacter was found on 32% of broiler farms. This is comparable to the numbers from Campylobacter surveillance conducted between 1999 and 2002. Campylobacter was also found in two of the human participants.
Salmonella surveillance is carried out on all broiler farms according to European legislation. Salmonella was reported in broilers from 11% of the farms. The types of Salmonella bacteria identified are those that can cause diarrhoea in people. Salmonella was also found in one human participant.
STEC and Listeria were found on very few broiler farms. These bacteria were detected on 1% (Listeria) or less (STEC) of the investigated farms.