On 3 July 2018, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued an update on the multi-country Listeria monocytogenes outbreak. Frozen corn and possibly other frozen vegetables are the likely source of the outbreak, which has affected Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom since 2015 (see current note 52/1202 at http://www.hps.scot.nhs.uk/ewr/article.aspx?id=77600).
The same strains of L. monocytogenes have been detected in frozen vegetables produced by the same Hungarian company in 2016, 2017 and 2018. This suggests that the strains have persisted in the processing plant despite the cleaning and disinfection procedures that have been carried out. Further investigations are needed to identify the exact points of environmental contamination at the Hungarian plant.
On 29 June 2018, the Hungarian National Food Chain Safety Office (NFCSO) banned the marketing of all frozen vegetable and frozen mixed vegetable products produced by the affected plant between August 2016 and June 2018, and ordered their immediate withdrawal and recall. All freezing activity at the plant has stopped.
As of 8 June 2018, 47 cases including nine deaths had been reported in total. Public Health England (PHE) is working with the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and Health Protection Scotland (HPS) to identify the cause of 11 cases in the UK.
To reduce the risk of infection, consumers should thoroughly cook non ready-to-eat frozen vegetables, even though these products are commonly consumed without cooking. This advice is especially important to those with the highest risk of contracting listeriosis – such as the elderly, pregnant women, infants and adults with weakened immune systems. Advice issued by PHE, FSS, FSA and HPS on the proper cooking of frozen vegetables is available at: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/news/precautionary-advice-on-cooking-fr….
The current list of recalled frozen vegetable products is available on the FSA website at: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/alert/fsa-prin-35-2018. Updates to this list are being made as and when they become available in the news and alerts section of the FSA website.
[Source: EFSA, 3 July 2018. http://www.efsa.europa.eu/en/press/news/180703]