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Rise in salmonella infections on Finnish farms

After a decade or so of only about 20 reported cases annually, 2018 saw 43 cases detected on cattle and pig farms.

Kuvassa kälviäläisen maatilan lehmiä.
Image: Kalle Niskala / Yle

The number of salmonella infections reported from Finnish farms roughly doubled in 2018 to 43 cases, reports the Kuopio-based newspaper Savon Sanomat. In previous years, between 10 and 15 cases were reported on average annually on cattle farms, along with about 10 infections on pig farms. The paper says that this year has also seen a higher tally than average so far.

No particular reason for the higher infection rates has been established.

Veterinarians from the ETT animal health inspection group says the most common cause of salmonella infections in the past have been feed stores and drinking basins that have been contaminated by faeces from birds and rodents. In calf rearing stations, salmonella infections usually originate from one of the dairy farms selling calves to the facility, ETT says.

Salmonella bacteria are found in intestinal tracts and can be transferred from animals to other animals and humans, leading to various illnesses such as diarrhoea, fever, abdominal cramps, and vomiting.

Finland has been touted as "virtually salmonella-free"

A May report from the Finnish Food Authority found that Finnish beef causes the highest percentage of salmonella infections among domestic food products. It states that a statistical model it has devised to analyse data from 2008-2015 also shows that imported beef "might cause" even more infections than domestic beef, although less imported meat is sold in Finland. Poultry farming causes only a very small percentage of the country's salmonella infections, the authority says.

When compared to the rest of the world, Finland, Sweden and Norway have traditionally maintained very low salmonella infection rates. This is due in part to the cold climate.

Each of the countries also runs a Salmonella Control Programme that imposes strict standards for the control of salmonella in production animals and foods of animal origin. If salmonella is detected, the farms are immediately put under restrictions until the infection is eradicated.

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