Contamination of food products with Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis: a systematic review


M.M. Eltholth, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK. E-mail:


Although a causal link between Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (MAP) and Crohn’s disease has not been proved, previous studies suggest that the potential routes of human exposure to MAP should be investigated. We conducted a systematic review of literature concerning the likelihood of contamination of food products with MAP and the likely changes in the quantity of MAP in dairy and meat products along their respective production chains. Relevant data were extracted from 65 research papers and synthesized qualitatively. Although estimates of the prevalence of Johne’s disease are scarce, particularly for non-dairy herds, the available data suggest that the likelihood of contamination of raw milk with MAP in most studied regions is substantial. The presence of MAP in raw and pasteurized milk has been the subject of several studies which show that pasteurized milk is not always MAP-free and that the effectiveness of pasteurization in inactivating MAP depends on the initial concentration of the agent in raw milk. The most recent studies indicated that beef can be contaminated with MAP via dissemination of the pathogen in the tissues of infected animals. Currently available data suggests that the likelihood of dairy and meat products being contaminated with MAP on retail sale should not be ignored.