January 22, 2008 / 2:59 PM / 11 years ago

EFSA urges food chain hygiene against listeriosis

MILAN, Jan 22 (Reuters) - European Union’s food safety watchdog has urged industry and consumers to tighten hygiene practices along the food chain to prevent the spread of listeriosis, a rare but potentially fatal food-borne disease.

European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) said on Tuesday its scientific panel had found that most listeriosis cases were due to consumption of ready-to-eat foods which develop a high concentration of listeria, a bactieria that causes disease, along the food chain.

“Good food hygiene and preparation principles ... play an important role in the prevention of listeria and other food-borne infections,” EFSA said in a statement.

The Parma-based agency said the food industry should pay special attention to packaging and preparation of ready-to-eat food, to storage temperatures, general industrial good hygiene practices and the education and training of food handlers.

EFSA urged consumers to observe recommended storage temperatures and the shelf-life of food in their refrigerators.

EFSA said the number of listeriosis cases in humans was low in the European Union due to the bloc’s high food safety standards, but in some EU states the disease has been on the rise since 2000. Elderly people and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to listeriosis as well as people suffering from diseases hitting immune system such as cancer or HIV, EFSA said.

(Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova; editing by Chris Johnson)

((svetlana.kovalyova@reuters.com; +39 02 661 29450; Reuters Messaging: svetlana.kovalyova.reuters.com@reuters.net)) Keywords: LISTERIA EFSA/

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