The BfR (German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment) has come to the conclusion that the transmission of F. tularensis through the food chain is unlikely in Germany.
In Germany, 41 cases of tularemia were reported in 2016. The infections are mainly due to direct contact with infected animals or with insect vectors like ticks and mosquitos.
‘Tularemia also known as rabbit fever is a severe, infectious bacterial disease caused by the bacterium Francisella tularensis. German Institute of Risk Assessment concludes that tularemia infection is not transmitted via food chain in Germany.’
Because contaminated foods occasionally cause tularemia outbreaks, the BfR has assessed the health risks of F. tularensis in foods of plant and animal origin, taking into account the tenacity of the pathogen during the processing of raw food materials. F. tularensis survives in acidic environments and at low temperatures but is sensitive to heat and pressure.
Based on current knowledge and given the low occurrence of the disease the BfR concludes that F. tularensis is not transmitted through the food chain in Germany . The risk of contracting tularemia in Germany primarily affects professionals with high exposure to infected animals like hunters, people working in forests and gardens, or people who travel to regions where the disease is endemic.
As with other foodborne pathogens, the risk of transmission of F. tularensis via foods can be minimised by taking precautionary hygiene measures. In the field of food production, this includes avoiding the introduction of fecal contaminants and infected corpses into the production chain and performing decontamination measures during the production process.
Consumers can protect themselves by following the general rules of kitchen hygiene when handling raw meat and, for example, always cooking meat thoroughly before consumption, in particular in the case of cut meat of hares and wild rabbits.