Listeria found in sample taken from M.V.Wool products

Salted salmon. Illustrative photograph.
Salted salmon. Illustrative photograph. Source: Priit Luts/ERR

The fish packing and fish processing company M.V.Wool, which has been caught up in a listeria bacterium scandal, announced on Tuesday evening that the bacteria was found in one of the 40 samples taken from the company's products.

M.V.Wool AS confirmed that it received on Tuesday a request for clarification from the Veterinary and Food Board with regard to the samples taken on Oct. 1.

Altogether 21 samples were taken from the premises and four from raw material, none of which contained the listeria bacterium. One of the 15 samples taken from fish products, however, contained the bacteria in 25 grams of product, M.V.Wool said. The entire batch in question has not left the plant. 

The samples did not specify the strain or number of the bacteria per one gram of product, the maximum amount of which in the European Union is 100 colony-forming units per gram (cfu/g) -- the amount safe for people to consume. No traces of the bacterium were found in the samples taken by the Veterinary and Food Board from supermarkets.

Samples from the same batch of products taken by an accredited independent laboratory did not indicate the presence of the listeria bacterium. M.V.Wool has replied to the Veterinary and Food Board's inquiry and also intends to carry out a repeat test to ascertain whether or not the batch is safe to consume. The company has a zero-tolerance policy in terms of the bacterium for all products that exit its facility.

The position of M.V.Wool is that the company's fish products have always been compliant with the maximum level established in the European Union, precluding any detrimental health effect of its products.

M.V.Wool has been working in close cooperation with the Veterinary and Food Board from this spring and has imposed a zero-tolerance policy on the listeria bacterium. Samples taken in the past six months confirm that the company's products remain far below the EU maximum level. Therefore, the company has proven that its products are safe to consume until the "use by" date, if the storage conditions set by the producer have been complied with, M.V.Wool said.

The allowed amount of the listeria bacteria in the European Union is 100 cfu/g. According to a report published by the European Food Safety Authority (European Food Safety Authority) in June, samples taken from M.V.Wool facilities included fewer than 10 units per gram and reached 40 units on a couple of occasions.

Amounts exceeding the maximum limit were found in French retail companies, where it was over 400 units, and in Danish retail companies, over 570 units. M.V.Wool has documented proof that the temperature conditions of the said product batches were not followed and the problems arose later in the cold chain.

The Estonian Veterinary and Food Board has pointed out to relevant French and Danish authorities that local retail companies have disregarded the storage conditions set on the products.

M.V.Wool is carrying out random checks into the presence of the bacterium in raw fish, which are conducted by officially accredited food laboratories. The company also told the Veterinary and Food Board on Sept. 16 that it has returned some five tons of non-compliant raw material to a Finnish fishing company and blacklisted the entrepreneur. 

M.V.Wool at present sells fish products to seven countries and has invested €2.5 million in the modernization of production facilities in the past five years. The company's production plant at Harku just outside Tallinn has been issued the IFS Food certificate.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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