The Estonian fish packing and fish processing company M. V. Wool said that while the Veterinary and Food Board collected a positive listeria sample in the plant in Harku a month ago, it has yet to carry out any repeat tests, which should be conducted in case of positive findings, however, the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) said that there is no requirement for repeat testing, public broadcaster ERR reports.
"The Veterinary and Food Board on Oct. 23, following the cleanup, found the Listeria bacterium in M. V. Wool's products and production facilities. This indicates that the cleanup was not sufficient. Repeat testing is not required in these procedures," VTA spokesperson Riina Kallas told ERR.
"The company is subject to a requirement of zero tolerance for listeria. That means there can be no listeria in the products exiting the company. M. V. Wool also takes samples daily from each product batch and relays the results to the Veterinary and Food Board. We would like to reiterate that the operator is responsible for guaranteeing food safety. The food placed on the market must be safe for human health and meet requirements," Kallas said.
Meelis Vetevool, chairman of the supervisory board of M. V. Wool, said in a press release on Friday that as the VTA has not conducted any repeat sampling, it thereby confirms that the products are safe.
Vetevool added that no samples had been collected from M. V. Wool facilities exceeding the 100 colony-forming units per gram (cfu/g) limit of listeria bacterium content since April this year, and the findings have remained below 10 cfu.
"Therefore, the questions arises whether the Veterinary and Food Board's goal is food safety or if [its activities] constitute a severe interference in the company's economic activity," Vetevool said.
Bacteria in the samples taken on Oct. 23 originated from purchased raw fish, Vetevool said, adding that the samples have yet to be sequenced and the strain of bacteria therein has not been identified.
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 the Harku plant on Jan. 15 and at the Vihterpalu plant on Feb. 5. The plan entails informing customers a minimum of one month in advance and in connection with that the suspension of the supply of certain products for the given period.
Kallas said that the VTA will decide the measures to be taken with regard to the company in the near future.
Editor: Helen Wright