The Estonian Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) has made an injunction to fish packing and fish processing company M.V.Wool's production unit in Vihterpalu, Harju County, as well as to a company by the name of OÜ Peetsman.
Olev Kalda, deputy director general of the Estonian Veterinary and Food Board said that after the results of new tests carried out this summer, and recent checks at both companies facilities which detected listeria bacterium, additional measures must be implemented to protect consumers.
"Both the Vihterpalu production unit of M. V. Wool and OÜ Peetsman have been subjected to a so-called listeria zero-tolerance requirement as a precautionary measure, which means that the products issued by the companies may not contain any listeria," Kalda said in a press release.
According to the information available to the Veterinary and Food Board, OÜ Peetsman has only bought its raw produce from M.V.Wool.
The Veterinary and Food Board will continue conducting an increased number of checks in the fish processing sector and implement the measures required for ensuring food safety.
The authority also wishes to remind entrepreneurs that food business operators are responsible for guaranteeing food safety. The food placed on the market must be safe for consumption, comply with requirements and cannot contain any parasites, pests or extraneous matter that degrades or endangers human health.
The VTA also stressed that at risk groups should refrain from consuming insufficiently heat-treated raw meat, fish and milk, which pose the highest risk of contracting listeria.
Excessive growth of the bacteria may also be prompted by the product being stored for too long in a fridge that is not cool enough as the bacterium is also capable of developing at low temperatures. Products that have exceeded their expiration date must not be consumed.
The strain of listeria bacteria ST1247 that has been traced back to the M.V.Wool fish plant in Estonia has been contracted by nine people in Estonia, two of whom died as a result, ETV investigative program Pealtnägija reported in September.
Several countries' studies have suggested that a mutated and very aggressive form of the listeria bacteria is raging in an M.V.Wool fish plant located near Harku, just outside of Tallinn.
Micro producer OÜ Peetsman
Manager of OÜ Peetsman, Riho Laan, told ERR he is a micro-producer who produces cold-smoked salmon from fresh fish purchased from M.V.Wool and sells it only to private individuals. However, in the light of M.V.Wool's recent news, his clientele has begun to decline.
"There is this listeria everywhere, in fruits and vegetables too. Panic is more than worth it. I understand that somebody is dead somewhere, but personally I don't see any problem, I eat fish. I don't see any problem at all!" Laan said. "This kind of horrible witch hunt is going on right now, it's frankly nerve-wracking, but there's nothing else to do. Thanks to this terrible media coverage, my sales have gotten a lot worse. Whether it's recovering or not, we will see."
The strain of Listeria found at the facilities last year was ST1247, the same strain as at the M.V.Wool plant.
"There was a positive sample back then, it included listeria, but none of the samples I've done have ever exceeded that norm, even at the end of their shelf life," Laan said. "I will happily continue eating it."
Editor: Helen Wright