Estonian fish processing and packing company M.V.Wool said that while the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) collected a positive listeria sample at M.V.Wool's plant in Harku a month ago, it has yet to take any repeat samples, which should be conducted in the case of a positive result.
"Safe food is the VTA's priority and as no repeat samples have been collected, the VTA thus confirms that the food is safe," M.V.Wool supervisory board chairman Meelis Vetevool said in a press release.
According to Vetevool, no samples have been collected from M.V.Wool facilities exceeding the 100 colony-forming units per gram (cfu/g) limit of listeria bacteria content since this April, and that findings have remained below 10 cfu.
"Thus the question arises whether the VTA's goal is food safety or whether [its activities] constitute severe interference in the company's economic activity," he added.
A total of 15 cases of listeriosis have been diagnosed in Estonia this year, none of which have been caused by the strain of listeria collected from M.V.Wool's facilities, the company said, adding that the VTA has also said in the media that the food that reaches supermarket shelves is safe to eat for consumers, and that no cases caused by the strain ST1247 associated with M.V.Wool have been registered.
"Samples collected from M.V.Wool immediately after the extensive cleanup did not indicate the presence of the listeria bacteria," Vetevool said. "Bacteria in the samples taken two days later, on Oct. 23, originated from purchased raw fish, which was also corroborated by samples taken by the Health Board and the VTA.
The board has subsequently not conducted any listeria checks in M.V.Wool for a month. The latest samples, taken on Oct. 23, have yet to be sequenced, and the strain of bacteria therein has not been identified."
At a food safety roundtable held at the Ministry of Rural Affairs on Oct. 29, both the Health Board and the VTA said that as no cases of listeriosis caused by the ST1247 strain have been registered in Estonia, the measures implemented by M.V.Wool have proven effective, thus proving that there is currently no threat to human health and life stemming from the strain, M.V.Wool said.
The company submitted an action plan to the VTA on Nov. 13 according to which M.V.Wool is to halt production for up to three weeks at its Harku facility on Jan. 15 and at its Vihterpalu facility on Feb. 5.
According to the plan, the company will inform its customers of the shutdown and related suspension of the supply of certain products for the affected period a minimum of one month in advance.
Editor: Aili Vahtla