Tallinn Administrative Court has partly agreed to a request from fish processing firm M.V.Wool for legal protection following the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) order last week to close the company's two processing plants.
The court said in a press release that it would grant M.V.Wool's request only as it pertains to packaged raw materials purchased from external suppliers and stored at the company's warehouse, and not to its remaining activities, on the grounds that there is heightened need for public health protection on the matter, particularly since M.V.Wool had previously claimed there was no clear and present risk to the public's health.
As reported on ERR News, the VTA issued made public its precept which presented evidence that Listeria bacteria strains, in particular ST1247, had been found in 35 separate cases between mid-March and late November this year, with further evidence that Listeria may have propagated at the company's two plants in Harku and Vihterpalu, west of Tallinn, as early as November 2017.
While the company issued an action plan following the initial finds, sparked off by concerns raised by Denmark's food authorities in March this year, and also carried out a full sterilization at the Harku facility in mid-October, strains of ST1247 returned, as revealed by later VTA samples. M.V.Wool CEO Mati Vetevool's claim that the new instances had come from raw materials imported from Finland were found to be without basis.
Under the terms of the conditional redress, M.V.Wool is permitted to remove raw products in stock at its facilities, provided these are not removed from their original packaging, and have not been stored together with M.V.Wool products suspected of Listeria contamination.
The retrieval process is also to be overseen by the VTA, which can conduct checks on the goods.
The court rejected the partial continuation of other M.V.Wool activities, or postponement of the suspension of its activities, given the VTA's claims of its risk to public health, if M.V.Wool's activities are continued in respect of the sites listed in the precept.
The court also found there was no cause to exclude cross-contamination between the two sites from the precept; the VTA had claimed that Listeria contamination in M.V.Wool products, thought to be behind the deaths of two people in Estonia and several more Europe-wide, had crossed between the Harku and Vihterpalu facilities.
The decision is an interim one valid until the dispute is resolved, with a full hearing to take place on Dec. 16 into M.V.Wool's appeal.
Additionally, M.V.Wool has 15 days to appeal the administrative court's decision.
M.V. Wool cannot resume production, import and export of raw materials or finished products, production activities and other functions until it has proved to the VTA that its facilities, products and related aspects is fully clear of ST1247 Listeria monocytogenes.
Editor: Andrew Whyte