Australia has been the latest country to be hit by mass recalls of frozen vegetables, following the recall of hundreds of products across the UK and Europe last week. These recalls follow the deaths of 9 people in the UK from listeria thought to be linked to the consumption of frozen vegetables.
Australian supermarkets affected include Woolworths, Aldi and IGA stores. About ten frozen vegetable products have been recalled in total including frozen corn, carrots, broccoli and mixed vegetables.
The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) agency who issued the alert said that it was just precautionary at this stage. The vegetables being recalled were distributed by Greenyard Frozen NV, the same Belgian company linked to the major recall across Europe.
FSANZ recommends that if you have affected products you should return them to the supermarket you bought them from for a refund or they should be thrown out.
Which Australian products are affected?
The following items have been recalled:
- Woolworths – Essentials snap frozen mixed veg 1kg: Carrots, peas, corn, green beans & potatoes – National distribution. Best before dates 19 MAR 2020 through to 24 APR 2020
- Woolworths – Bell Farms Steam Veggie Carrot Corn and Broccoli 3pk 450g – National distribution, all stock
- IGA – Black & Gold Corn Kernels 500g – National distribution. Best before all dates
- IGA – Black & Gold Mixed Vegetables 1kg: Carrots, peas, beans & corn – National distribution. Best before all dates
- ALDI – Market Fare Peas, Carrots and Super Sweet Corn 1kg – National distribution
- ALDI – Market Fare Corn Kernels 1kg QLD, VIC, WA and select NSW stores. Product of Hungary (only)
- ALDI – Market Fare Mixed Vegetables 1kg QLD, NSW, ACT, WA. Packed in Belgium from imported and Belgian ingredients (only)
- ALDI – Market Fare Quick Steam Carrot Broccoli and Cauliflower 450g – National distribution
- ALDI – Market Fare Quick Steam Carrot Corn and Broccoli 450g – National distribution
- ALDI – Only products with country of origin of Belgium, United Kingdom or Hungary. All other countries not affected
About the European recall
The Australian recall follows a mass recall across the UK and Europe where 47 people have fallen ill and 9 have died in cases linked to frozen vegetables. The cases were spread across 5 countries.
The outbreak began in 2015 but has been escalating this year, with 18 confirmed cases to date in 2018. The countries that have been affected are Finland (23 cases), the UK (11 cases), Sweden (7 cases), Denmark (4 cases) and Austria (2 cases).
The frozen foods were distributed by Greenyard NV, a Belgian company. However the affected products were thought to originate from a plant in Hungary owned by the Belgian organisation. Production at the plant has been stopped while a review is conducted.
Frozen corn seems to be the most common vegetable implicated in the outbreak, however some victims are claiming that they haven’t eaten frozen corn so it seems like other vegetables may also be implicated.
Authorities say that the number of people affected has likely been underestimated.
“It is likely that the extent of this outbreak has been underestimated since the outbreak was identified through sequencing and only a subset of the EU/EEA countries routinely use this advanced technique to characterize L. monocytogenes isolates,” said a spokesperson for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
What is listeria?
Listeria causes listeriosis, a bacterial infection that can cause serious illness and death. Pregnant women, new and unborn babies are particularly at risk. Elderly and immunocompromised people may also be seriously affected.
Listeriosis starts with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea, and sometimes diarrhoea. In severe cases, it can worsen to affect organs like the heart and brain. It has been known to cause miscarriage in pregnant women.
Listeriosis has a long incubation period and it can be up to 70 days before symptoms start to show. Because of this, it can be difficult to trace the source of listeria outbreaks. In this case, traceability is even more complex due to the long shelf life of frozen vegetables. This makes is difficult to pinpoint a source or time period from which the vegetables originated. It’s like that there will be new cases from this outbreak that have not yet been reported.
If you think you’re suffering from listeriosis and are in a high risk group, contact your doctor immediately for advice.