Listeria bacteria detected at three more Estonian food producers this year

Food being tested in a laboratory (picture is illustrative).
Food being tested in a laboratory (picture is illustrative). Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) says it has detected Listeria bacteria at three more food producers in Estonia, in addition to repeated finds involving M.V.Wool fish packing plant.

The other findings, according to ERR's online news in Estonian, have so far mostly been "one-off" traces rather than repeated instances as in the case of M.V.Wool, which concluded a month-long sterilization process at its two plants at the end of last week.

However, findings at Linnamäe Lihatööstus meat packers have recurred, on two occasions and on different products, though the actual strains of Listeria have not yet been identified.

The strain of Listeria found most commonly in M.V.Wool's products, raw materials, and its two plants at Harku and Vihterpalu, has been identified as ST1247, by the VTA. ST1247 strains have been behind the deaths of several people in Europe, including in Estonia.

Riigikogu MP Peeter Ernits (EKRE) stated on his social media page that two other strains, ST155 and ST37, have spread from Finland to three other fish processing companies in Estonia (which obtain a lot of their raw materials from Finland); Ernits expressed frustration that nothing had been done regarding the three companies in Estonia in question – Vettel, Poseidon and Avectra, whereas M.V.Wool had seen a precept issued for a full closure by the VTA.

The VTA said the ST155 and ST37 strains could not be directly linked to the three companies since the strain was found in other food groups, ERR reports.

ST37 has been detected from VTA tests on samples of Linnamäe Lihatööstus products, the first from reindeer meat in Febuary and the second from elk meat, in November, ERR reports. Linnamäe Lihatööstus was informed and the product lines recalled from the shelves.

"The operator was informed of non-compliant test results and instructions were given for immediate recall of the products. In addition, the operator had to identify the cause of the contamination and inform the company of the actions taken to prevent recurrence of food contamination," commented Kairi Ramjalg of the VTA.

At the same time, the VTA said that Linnamäe Lihatööstus had been cooperative and had followed its precepts as issued, including product recall, product disposal, facilities cleaning etc.

The VTA says it will continue to keep an eye on Linnamäe Lihatööstus.

"The VTA verifies the measures implemented in the company and, if necessary, performs monitoring tests to make sure the measures are effective. It will also check the recall of products," Ramjalg said.

The VTA confirmed, in the light of Ernits' claims, to ERR that it had identified the same strain of list bacteria, ST37, as well as another ST155 strain, from two fish producers: Poseidon and Vettel.

"With Poseidon, the production of red fish products has now been suspended and products have been removed from the company's selection," Ramjalg explained.

"Vettel has demonstrated to the VTA that its ready-to-eat foods do not exceed the limit set by European Commission regulations with regard to end of shelf life,"commented Ramjalg, meaning the commission sets a maximum level of Listeria traces which are acceptable within a product's shelf life.

Ramjalg would not comment further on the claim made by Ernits about the list bacterium found by Avektra in the fishing industry.

"With Avektra, it is not possible to comment on whether these strains have been found or not, because the company is currently undergoing proceedings," Ramjalg said.

Elena Tomasova, deputy director general for health at the Health Board (Terviseamet), told ERR that from 2015 to the present, no cases of listeriosis involving ST37 or ST155 strains have been recorded in Estonia, so no food producer from which these strains have been detected have been associated with any disease.

In other words while ST37 and ST 155 strains have been detected in Vetell and Poseidon products, and the first of these at Linnamäe Lihatööstus, the strains are less virulent than the ST1247 strain detected repeatedly at M.V.Wool and linked to the listeriosis fatalaties and illnesses.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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