Infections caused by Salmonella bacteria are a major public health problem around the world. The Nordic countries are an exception to this. The situation in Finland, Sweden and Norway has remained significantly better than in the rest of the world. In Finland, slightly more than 1,000 cases of infection have been reported in humans each year, of which only about 15-20 percent of the cases are of domestic origin.
Finland's national Salmonella control program
As the Salmonella situation in Finland is significantly better than in most other EU countries, except for the Nordic countries, it was desired to maintain a good level even after joining the EU. One way to ensure a low prevalence of Salmonella is through a national Salmonella control program. The Salmonella control program, approved by the Commission of the European Communities for Finland in the context of the accession negotiations at the end of 1994, provides good conditions for monitoring the Salmonella situation in animals and animal originated foods. If salmonella is detected during surveillance, the resulting measures are defined in legislation. Due to the control program, Finland received additional guarantees for Salmonella, i.e. consignments of meat and eggs imported into Finland must be tested for Salmonella in the country of origin and the result must be negative. Sweden and Norway are not required to do so, as their Salmonella control programs are equivalent to the Finnish level and have been approved by the Commission.
The Finnish national Salmonella control program covers cattle, pigs, and poultry, as well as meat and eggs obtained from them. Under the program, Finland has committed itself to keeping Salmonella levels below 1% by animal species. For both meat poultry and egg production, Salmonella control is carried out for the whole chain, from grandparent or parent generation to production generation. Samples are taken according to the program at different stages of the chain, from incubators to slaughterhouses and cutting plants. Salmonella control in cattle and pigs is less systematic for live animals, with a focus on slaughterhouses and cutting plants. In slaughterhouses and cutting plants, the aim is to keep the prevalence of salmonella in less than 5% of the batches examined.
Studies related to the Salmonella control program are performed in 22 laboratories approved for the program. These laboratories send information on their analyzes of the national Salmonella control program to the Food Agency on a monthly basis. A summary of the laboratories' monthly reports is compiled for the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and other authorities monthly.
Municipal veterinarians monitor the implementation of the Salmonella control program for poultry. Legislation requires some Salmonella samples to be official, which means that the municipal veterinarian is responsible for the sampling. Simultaneously with the official sampling, the responsible veterinarian shall carry out a production hygiene inspection. During the inspection, veterinarians will also inspect the records related to Salmonella control. In regard to chickens, the implementation of the Salmonella control program is also monitored in egg packing plants. Finnish Food Authority's veterinary inspectors monitor the implementation of the program regarding slaughterhouses and associated cutting plants, while other cutting plants are controlled by municipal veterinarians. Information on the implementation of Salmonella control is obtained from county veterinarians, who collect the information sent by municipal veterinarians and forward it to the Food Agency. Data collected from laboratories and other routes are transferred annually to the EU reporting template.
In Finland, very little Salmonella is detected in animals and food derived from them. Since 1995, when the implementation of the national Salmonella control program in Finland began, the prevalence of salmonella has been systematically monitored and reports have been collected on the results. There is a lot of information about Salmonella and other diseases that can be transmitted between animals and humans on the Zoonosis centre's website.