Fish processing company M.V.Wool said it has concluded its in-depth cleansing of facilities at its Vihterpalu and Harku plants on Friday, which lasted for approximately a month.
"M.V.Wool in cooperation with professional cleaning companies carried out a thorough cleansing of the plants, during which we disinfected and sterilized production surfaces and equipment in all rooms," said Meelis Vetevool, chairman of the supervisory board of M.V.Wool.
When developing the cleaning plan submitted to the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) on November 13, the company took into account the opinions of the experts of several specialties.
During the in-depth cleansing, equipment and premises were first cleaned and disinfected, followed by the disassembling of equipment and the cleaning of the surfaces of them with chemical cleaning and disinfecting products as well as the sterilization of the equipment parts. In addition to the equipment, all tools were sterilized at a high temperature.
The in-depth cleansing was an additional measure to the usual cleaning taking place. The in-depth cleansing started after an injunction was made by the VTA on November 25.
M.V.Wool said 20 surfaces samples have been taken for self-examination from the Vihterpalu plant after the in-depth cleaning, which were clean according to the analysis of the accredited laboratories of the Health Board and Icosagen AS. "The VTA has also taken samples from Vihterpalu and next we will forward to the authority an application for the taking of samples from the Harku production unit," Vetevool added.
The scandal around M.V.Wool first erupted in spring this year when the Danish veterinary and food authority probing an outbreak of listeriosis which started three years ago pointed the finger at products of the Estonian company. The scandal got a new twist with media reporting in late September that 28 people had fallen ill with listeriosis in Estonia during 2018, seven of whom died. In six of the people who fell ill and in two of the people who died Listeria bacteria of the ST1247 strain connected with said outbreak of the disease was found.
In October, M.V.Wool carried out full sterilization at its Harku plant that involved halting of production for two days. In mid-November the VTA announced however that it found Listeria bacteria in new samples taken after the cleansing of the production facility.
On November 13, the fish processing company submitted an action plan to the VTA for eliminating Listeria from its facilities, which included temporarily halting production for a thorough cleanup at the beginning of 2020.
The VTA announced on November 25 it was suspending the activity of the Harku and Vihterpalu factories of M.V.Wool with immediate effect. The injunction included production, mediation, storage, import of raw material and raw material and goods' export.
The suspension will last until M.V. Wool has proven to the VTA the Listeria ST1247 stain has been eliminated at the company's locations of activity.
The authority said that the company's activities so far had been insufficient.
On December 6, the company announced it would be making 125 employees redundant.
The Tallinn Administrative Court on December 16 said M.V.Wool and the VTA are trying to find a compromise solution in the ongoing court case which they must announce to the administrative court by January 8, at the latest.
The company and the authority reached an agreement allowing for the company to partially resume its operation, but M.V.Wool has not yet been granted permission to restart production
M.V.Wool made a proposal at a court session on Monday for the VTA to allow the company to continue buying packaged fish and selling it to stores. The company also requested permission for continuing the sale of pickled fish, particularly eel, as these products have been heated and packaged and the possibility of the Listeria bacterium being present in the products has been eliminated. The VTA agreed to the proposal.
M.V. Wool said their products have always met valid EU standards and has ruled out any possibility of them having a harmful effect on people's health.
Editor: Helen Wright