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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

UAE supermarkets recall frozen food following killer listeria outbreak in Europe

Waitrose and Spinneys have both pulled Waitrose Essential Mixed Vegetable bags from its freezers after nine died from outbreak

Waitrose and Spinneys have recalled frozen vegetables amid listeria fears. Randi Sokoloff / The National
Waitrose and Spinneys have recalled frozen vegetables amid listeria fears. Randi Sokoloff / The National

UAE supermarkets have recalled frozen products following a listeria outbreak that has killed nine people in Europe.

Waitrose and Spinneys both pulled Waitrose Essential mixed vegetable bags from its freezers on Monday following a mass recall in the UK involving six supermarkets.

The supermarkets displayed signs yesterday urging shoppers to return the product, which was the only Waitrose item sold in the UAE in a list of goods to be affected by the European recall.

A spokeswoman for Fine Fare Food Market, which operates both chains in the UAE, confirmed that shoppers will receive a full refund.

In recent weeks, Aldi, Lidl, Iceland, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose have all recalled frozen vegetables due to the risk of Listeria monocytogenes contamination.

Listeria is a type of bacteria that can live in soil, water, dust, animal faeces or other substances.

It can cause food poisoning that can be serious or even life-threatening in pregnant women, the elderly and people whose immune systems are weak. Symptoms are similar to the flu and include a high fever, chills, feeling or being sick, and diarrhoea. Cooking kills the bacteria.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, the outbreak has been ongoing since 2015 and has also affected Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden.

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Scientists used whole genome sequencing to determine that the source was likely frozen corn and possibly other frozen vegetables. They detected the same strains of L. monocytogenes have been detected in frozen vegetables produced by the same Hungarian company in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“This suggests that the strains have persisted in the processing plant despite the cleaning and disinfection procedures that were carried out,” according to the EFSA.

In late June, the Hungarian Food Chain Safety Office banned the marketing of all frozen vegetable and frozen mixed vegetable products made by the plant from August 2016 to June 2018, said the EFSA. It also ordered the immediate withdrawal and recall of the products.

Experts say that new cases could also still emerge as the incubation period for listeriosis is up to 70 days.