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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

UAE monitors frozen food after listeria outbreak in Europe 

Government tells local authorities to investigate products on list received from the EU

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is monitoring a recal of frozen products after a listeria outbreak that saw supermarkets in the UAE pull products off the shelves. Antonie Robertson / The National
The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is monitoring a recal of frozen products after a listeria outbreak that saw supermarkets in the UAE pull products off the shelves. Antonie Robertson / The National

The Ministry of Climate Change and Environment is “closely monitoring” the recall of frozen food in Europe after a listeria outbreak there killed nine people.

Supermarkets in the UAE have pulled produce from their shelves, while in Europe retailers recalled frozen products on concerns they could be contaminated with the harmful bacteria.

On Monday, Waitrose and Spinneys in the UAE both removed Waitrose Essential mixed vegetable bags from their freezers after the produce was named on a list of goods that could contain listeria.

Listeria can cause food poisoning that can be serious or life-threatening to 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.

Majd Al Herbawi, director of the food safety department at the ministry, said the Government received an alert from the European Union which contained a list of products produced by a Belgium-based company called Greenyard.

“A notification has been issued to the local food control authorities to investigate the products on the list and ensure that UAE markets are free of contaminated food items,” Ms Al Herbawi said.

“As soon as the investigation is finalised, the ministry will issue a statement.”

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She said the ministry and the food control authorities are monitoring the situation.

In recent weeks, Aldi, Lidl, Iceland, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose have all recalled frozen vegetables because of a risk of listeria contamination. More products were added to the recall this week.

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

At least 47 people became sick after eating the products and nine have died. Eighteen cases have been reported this year.

Whole genome sequencing revealed that the source is most likely to be frozen corn or other frozen vegetables. Scientists detected the same strains of L. monocytogenes in frozen vegetables produced at a Hungarian plant in 2016, 2017 and 2018. The plant is owned by Greenyard.