Tests before destruction
Bacteria show no respect for national borders but may spread throughout the world, causing outbreaks of dangerous diseases far from where they originated. The standards of hygiene in food production in many tropical and subtropical countries are far below those enforced in Europe. Bringing foods back home from holiday thus poses a real risk. "In Frankfurt airport alone, about 22 tons of food people had brought with them on over 5000 flights were confiscated over a 15-month period. And this amount is probably just the tip of the iceberg. The authorities at Vienna airport also undertake checks and frequently find food of animal origin that is being imported illegally," says Wagner, clearly concerned at the potential explosiveness of the situation. It is generally forbidden to bring food into the 27 EU member countries but very few people seem aware of the law. If a spot-check reveals food, it is confiscated and destroyed immediately. Which bacteria the food contains and how dangerous they could have been has to date been examined only rarely.
The goal: EU-wide standards
As Wagner explains, the PROMISE project has two main goals. "We would like to make a survey of germs brought in together with food and we also plan to investigate the potential the bacteria have for causing disease." In addition, the project will pool data from throughout Europe to enable an accurate assessment of the risks posed by contaminated food of animal origin and will build up an extensive database of bacterial isolates identified in the course of the work. The new project also aims at improving communications with authorities responsible for risk management in new EU member states and in candidate countries.
Provided by University of Veterinary Medicine -- Vienna
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