Prime minister: Rural affairs minister has to answer for Listeria actions ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Rural affaris minister Mart Järvik (EKRE).
Rural affaris minister Mart Järvik (EKRE). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Minister for Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE) will have to be held accountable for statements regarding a Listeria outbreak traced to a fish producer in Estonia, Prime Minister Jüri Ratas said Wednesday.

Speaking on Vikerraadio broadcast Stuudios on peaminister, Ratas said that he could not confirm if Järvik had misled the public about when he first became aware of the Listeria bacteria which caused the deaths of two people in Estonia, and several more across Europe, traced to the M.V.Wool packing plant in Harku, west of Tallinn.

As reported on ERR News, while Järvik says he first found out about the issues in mid-August, and then from the ministry's internal information system, ministry records show a letter referencing the discovery of listeria bacteria in three of 26 samples taken from the M.V.Wool plant was first sent to the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) in early July, though this was misaddressed, and later re-sent. Further records show Järvik was at a presentation at M.V.Wool in mid-June, during which the issue was discussed.

As reported on ERR News, while Järvik says he first found out about the issues in mid-August, and then from the ministry's internal information system, ministry records show a letter referencing the discovery of listeria bacteria in three of 26 samples taken from the M.V.Wool plant was first sent to the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) in early July, though this was misaddressed, and later re-sent. Further records show Järvik was at a presentation at M.V.Wool in mid-June, during which the issue was discussed.

"It is clear that today there are more questions on this subject than clear and specific answers," Ratas went on.

"It is certainly a minister's responsibility to give the public clear and specific answers," he added.

"When it comes to lies, there is one well-known folk aphorism - lies have short legs."

Ratas also said that M.V.Wool, who conducted a sterilization of their plant in October, should have cooperated more in the light of the revelations.

"Especially when people's health and lives are at stake, production has to be automatically paused, stopped, and the factory completely cleaned. Not just for a two- or three-hour period either; I've also done a bit of research, this takes much longer," Ratas said.

The prime minister also drew a parallel with African Swine Fever, which had been detected in Estonia and subsequently eradicated among domestic stock – though the disease has been found among wild boar.

"There are examples where, when the disease is detected, the facilities are completely cleared of stock before rearing can recommence," he said.

"There must be zero tolerance in this. In that sense, I support the VTA in any case. But there is no other option for the minister if he has yet to explain his actions," Ratas added.

Another EKRE member, former IT and foreign trade minster Kert Kingo, was forced to step down two weeks ago after it was found she had misled the Riigikogu over the appointment of an advisor.

Editor: Andrew Whyte

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