Veterinary and Food board suspends operations at M.V.Wool factories

The M.V.Wool trout gravlax which was been recalled.
The M.V.Wool trout gravlax which was been recalled. Source: Merilin Pärli/ERR

The Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) has issued an injunction to suspend operations by processed fish company M.V.Wool with immediate effect. Both of M.V.Wool's plants, in Harku and Vihterpalu, are to be closed following repeated findings of Listeria bacteria despite the company saying it took efforts to eliminate these.

The strain in question, ST1247, has been linked with outbreaks of Listeriosis. Bacteria outbreaks traced to M.V.Wool products have been linked to two deaths in Estonia and several more Europe-wide, and first came to light following claims made by the Danish veterinary and food authority earlier in the year.

The VTA say M.V.Wool's efforts, which included closing the Harku factory for sterilization over two days in mid-October.

According to Olev Kalda, VTA Deputy Director Genera, the closure decision was the result of a thorough analysis.

"Since the company's activities to date have not led to a mitigation of the threat, halting the company's food operations is a measure to ensure food contaminated with the disease agent does not end up going to the consumer," Kalda explained.

M.V.Wool can, according to the VTA, recommence production if it demonstrates that its procedures are appropriate and that the specific risk has been eliminated.

Listeria monocytogenes strain ST1247 has caused diseases both in Estonia and Europe. It can be very debilitating and puts people with a weak immune system first and foremost – pregnant women, the elderly, etc. Listeriosis is characterized by a long incubation period which varies from a few days to three months. The Listeria contamination may arise from contaminated food such as meat, fish, dairy products, salads and fruits and vegetables. Unlike other food-borne bacteria, even refrigeration may not halt the bacteria propagating, which they can do at low temperatures, according to ERR.

On March 8 this year, the VTA received information from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) announcing outbreaks of Listeria monocytogenes in five EU Member States .

The results of the analysis linked the outbreaks to the products from M.V.Wool AS. As a result, on March 13, the VTA issued precautionary measures for further assessment of the safety of the output. 

On 4 June, EFSA and ECDC released a risk assessment of the international outbreak. The cases of illness and death identified in the EFCA-ECDC report relate to industry and activities from M.V.Wool and not to the raw materials used by the company.

M.V.Wool had since been required to provided the VTA with regular samples to monitor the existence of Listeria bacteria.

Some M.V.Wool prducts, including trout were recalled, and supermarket Maxima stopped stocking the company's products altogether.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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