Esthio, the catering company from Harelbeke in West Flanders suspected of being at the source of a salmonella outbreak that affected hundreds of children in some 40 schools, has been given permission to begin delivering meals again. The permission comes after thorough inspections by the Federal Food Safety Agency gave the company a clean bill of health.
According to the agency, Esthio’s return to delivering school meals was a formality after no trace of any contaminants was found in the premises or among staff. However there was a last-minute hiccup when Daniel Ducarme, federal minister for agriculture, decided to block the agency’s decision, in order to “rule out all possible risk”.
Ducarme was criticised by schools, who found themselves unable to plan for meals for the children, as well as the agency itself, which stressed how thorough their inspections had been. Ducarme later reversed his own decision, and the schools concerned will take delivery of lunches today, with full service resuming next week.
With Esthio given a clean bill of health, the mystery of where the salmonella infection came from looks likely to remain unsolved. A shipment of lettuce served in salad to the schools came under suspicion, but no samples remain that can be tested, so that avenue of enquiry remains speculative.