Make sure you heat up frozen veg thoroughly to avoid listeriosis: NICD
The listeriosis strain which caused Woolworths South Africa on Tuesday to recall one of its frozen rice products is not linked to the deadly ST6 outbreak that has left more than 180 dead across the country.
In a statement on Wednesday‚ the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said the outbreak of listeriosis linked to frozen corn - and possibly to other frozen vegetables - has been ongoing in five European Union member states since 2015.
Woolworths South Africa on Tuesday announced a recall of their frozen savoury rice product as a precautionary measure. The product contains frozen corn and is reportedly sourced from Belgium.
This follows on an alert issued by the Hungarian Food Safety Agency to the global food industry.
On June 29 this year‚ the Hungarian Food Chain Safety Office banned the marketing of all frozen vegetables and frozen mixed vegetables produced by the Greenyard Factory between August 2016 and June this year‚ and ordered their immediate withdrawal and recall.
All freezing activity at the plant was stopped in June 2018.
In its alert on Wednesday‚ the NICD said the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reported that as of June 15‚ 2018‚ 47 cases with nine deaths had been identified.
Countries affected are Austria‚ Denmark‚ Finland‚ Sweden and the United Kingdom.
“Whole-genome sequencing (WGS) analysis has shown that the human cases are linked to frozen corn and several other frozen vegetable products produced at the Greenyard Factory in Hungary.
“The outbreak strain is L. monocytogenes sequence type 6 (ST6)‚ but this strain is not related to the ST6 strain which caused the recent listeriosis outbreak in South Africa. NICD scientists have confirmed this with ECDC colleagues‚” NICD said in its alert.
The NICD said the ECDC had advised that to reduce the risk of L. monocytogenes infection due to frozen vegetables‚ consumers should thoroughly cook frozen vegetables that are not labelled as ready-to-eat‚ even those that are sometimes consumed without cooking‚ for example in salads and smoothies.
“We encourage all persons at high risk for listeriosis to cook frozen vegetables before eating (cook thoroughly in boiling water or heat to high temperatures greater than 70°C).”
The NICD said people at a high risk for listeriosis include pregnant women‚ very young infants‚ persons over 65 years of age‚ and anyone with a weakened immune system.
In its statement‚ Woolworths said listeria bacteria were easily destroyed by cooking.
“The Frozen Savoury Rice Mix product is uncooked and frozen and so requires cooking before consumption‚” Woolworths said.
It said thorough cooking ensured that the product was safe.
“We are voluntarily recalling this product as a precautionary measure‚ on the global instruction of the Hungarian Food Safety Agency‚” the retailer said in a statement announcing the recall.
“None of our other frozen sweetcorn or vegetable products are affected.”
Listeriosis is a bacterial disease caused by listeria. The bacterium is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil‚ water and contaminated food‚ according to the NICD.
Animals and food products such as vegetables can become contaminated from these sources.