The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment says statistics reveal that, for the first time, incidents of the disease caused by the foodborne pathogen fell below that of those cause by Campylobacter germs last year.<

Salmonella are to be found in 29 per cent of the large-scale German laying hen flocks. In Scandinavian countries this figure is less than one per cent, while in some eastern European countries it is 65 per cent or higher, the agency noted. The EU average is about 31 per cent.

The statistics are the preliminary results of a pilot study commissioned by the European Commission in the 25 EU member states in a bid to assess the problem and then deal with it. Studies back in the 1990s had already indicated that S. Enteritidis could be a problem with laying hens.

This led to the introduction of a compulsory vaccination for laying hens in Germany. The steady drop in reported cases of salmonellosis in human beings by around one-third since 2001 alone was seen as a success of this vaccination, the BfR stated.

In future, flocks will be regularly examined by official bodies and targeted measures taken in the case of positive test results, the BfR stated.