Technical specifications are proposed for harmonised monitoring and reporting of verotoxigenic Escherichia coli (VTEC) in animals and foodstuffs by the European Union Member States in accordance with the Directive 2003/99/EC (EC, 2003). This harmonisation should facilitate a better analysis of the situation at Member State and Community levels and enable cost-effective monitoring. According to a risk-based sampling strategy, the technical specifications describe an entire survey, aiming at estimating at slaughter the prevalence of VTEC O157 contamination, primarily on the hide of young cattle and secondarily on sheep fleeces. It is proposed that all Member States carry out monitoring on a minimum three-year interval basis. In addition to the monitoring of VTEC O157, which is the most often reported serogroup in VTEC cases in humans in the European Union, Member States may extend the monitoring to the serogroups: VTEC O26, O103, O111 and O145, which are also identified as causes of human infections. Regarding foodstuffs, general guidelines are given for carrying out specific surveys on the food categories that are most likely to be sources of VTEC O157 and non-O157 infections in humans. The standardised ISO 16654:2001 (ISO, 2001) method is recommended for the detection of E. coli O157 in food. A method derived from the same ISO is specifically proposed for the testing of hide and fleece samples. All isolated E. coli O157 strains must be confirmed as VTEC by testing for the presence of VT-encoding genes (vtx). Regarding the detection of serogroups O26, O103, O111 and O145, the draft CEN TC275/WG6 standard, currently submitted to ISO for evaluation, is proposed to be used. Specifications are also given for the reporting of the information on the VTEC monitoring programme and its results in animals and foodstuffs by Member States in their annual zoonoses reports. It is further proposed that the technical specifications be reviewed in the light of the results of the first surveys.
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