Seasonal Changes in Salmonella Prevalence in Dairy Products

Greg Howard
11th May, 2024

Seasonal Changes in Salmonella Prevalence in Dairy Products

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Ethiopia, Salmonella is more prevalent in dairy during the dry season
  • Raw milk, especially from Oromia, has higher Salmonella rates than pasteurized milk or cheese
  • Seasonal patterns in contamination suggest a need for targeted food safety measures
Foodborne illnesses pose a significant threat to public health worldwide, and understanding the factors that contribute to the spread of foodborne pathogens is crucial in combating these diseases. A recent study conducted by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research[1] has shed light on the seasonal prevalence of Salmonella in dairy products in Ethiopia, a country where previous research on this topic has been limited. Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. It can contaminate a wide range of food products, leading to illnesses that are often more pronounced during certain times of the year. This phenomenon of seasonal fluctuation in the prevalence of foodborne pathogens has been observed in various contexts. For instance, a study in Midwestern United States found that the prevalence of E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella in beef processing plants varied by season, with higher rates in the warmer months[2]. Similarly, a Salmonella outbreak in France was traced back to contaminated raw-milk cheese, highlighting the risks associated with dairy products[3]. The Ethiopian study aimed to identify the differences in the prevalence of Salmonella in milk and cheese samples between the wet and dry seasons. Using a longitudinal study design, researchers collected a total of 448 samples of milk and cottage cheese from three regions: Oromia, Sidama, and Amhara. These samples underwent testing using a recognized microbiological method (ISO 6579-1: 2008), and the presence of Salmonella was confirmed with PCR, a molecular technique that detects the DNA of pathogens. The results were telling. There was a higher prevalence of Salmonella detected in all sample types during the dry season, with raw milk samples from the Oromia region showing a significant difference in Salmonella prevalence (27.08%). Furthermore, samples from raw milk producers exhibited a notably higher prevalence of Salmonella during the wet season (29.17%). These findings suggest that the risk of Salmonella contamination in dairy products in Ethiopia is subject to seasonal variation, with different risks associated with each season. Understanding this seasonal pattern is crucial for developing effective food safety interventions. For example, the study's findings indicate that strategies for improving the safety of dairy products in Ethiopia must account for these seasonal fluctuations. This could involve targeted awareness campaigns on hygienic milk production and handling practices, timed according to the season to maximize their effectiveness. The research also builds on the body of evidence that shows the importance of considering the source of contamination. As seen in the Midwestern beef processing plants[2], hides were identified as a major source of pathogens, suggesting that interventions could be most effective if they focus on the initial stages of production. Similarly, the Ethiopian study implies that interventions at the level of raw milk production could be particularly beneficial. Moreover, this study has implications for public health beyond Ethiopia. It underscores the need for a global perspective on food safety, considering the unique challenges faced by different regions. The emergence of invasive strains of non-typhoidal salmonellae in Africa[4] has been linked to factors such as HIV, malaria, and malnutrition, demonstrating the complex interplay between pathogens, human health, and environmental factors. In conclusion, the research by the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research provides valuable insights into the seasonal dynamics of Salmonella contamination in dairy products. It highlights the necessity of seasonally tailored food safety interventions and contributes to a more nuanced understanding of foodborne illness transmission. This knowledge is not only pertinent for Ethiopia but also has broader implications for global efforts to enhance food safety and prevent foodborne illnesses.



Main Study

1) Seasonal variation of Salmonella enterica prevalence in milk and cottage cheese along the dairy value chain in three regions of Ethiopia

Published 10th May, 2024

Related Studies

2) Seasonal prevalence of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli, including O157:H7 and non-O157 serotypes, and Salmonella in commercial beef processing plants.

Journal: Journal of food protection, Issue: Vol 66, Issue 11, Nov 2003

3) Outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Montevideo infections in France linked to consumption of cheese made from raw milk.

4) Invasive non-typhoidal salmonella disease: an emerging and neglected tropical disease in Africa.

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