Recall action: nine deaths in Europe due to contaminated Greenyard frozen vegetables
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Recall action: nine deaths in Europe due to contaminated Greenyard frozen vegetables

In the past three years, nine Europeans have died after having eaten frozen vegetables from the Belgian fruit and vegetable supplier, Greenyard. There were no Belgian victims. Greenyard is recalling a lot of frozen products that were produced in its Hungarian factory over the past two years and also sold to Belgian retailers, Colruyt and Delhaize.

The victims were from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the United Kingdom, reports the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The frozen vegetables they had eaten were infected with the listeria bacteria. Experts were able to identify the Greenyard processing plant in Hungary as the source of that bacterium.

Researchers are currently investigating how the contamination could have occurred. If necessary, other Greenyard branches will also be closed.

The share price of Greenyard fell quickly on Friday. Since EFSA’s announcement, Greenyard has lost more than 9.5 percent of market value. The trading of the share was interrupted at the request of the stock market authority.

“Of course we take the case very seriously,” says a Greenyard spokesperson to De Standaard. “But there is no medical link between the deaths and the eating of the frozen vegetables.”

Greenyard says it has dismantled the freezer tunnels in its factory in Baja, Hungary and found the basic contamination. But it can not make any further statements about the cause. The company is also looking into whether there is a problem at other sites.

Greenyard does not yet know the commercial ramifications of the recall.The development comes at a particularly bad time because the prices in the vegetable sector are already under pressure. However, the direct costs of the recall will be covered by Greenyard’s insurance. The recall affects less than 1 percent of Greenyard’s Hungarian production.

The Belgian vegetable giant announced on Friday morning that it is recalling eighteen products, including frozen peas and broken beans. All those deep-frozen products were produced in its Hungarian factory between 13 August 2016 and 20 June 2018. The recall is being carried out in consultation with the food agency FAVV and its Hungarian counterpart.

The frozen vegetables were sold under different brands in a large number of supermarkets, including Colruyt and Delhaize. The recall applies to all products that have not yet passed the best before date. A week ago, Greenyard had recalled all frozen corn that had left its Hungarian factory since 13 August 2016.

The possible symptoms of listeria are fever and/or headache. These symptoms can lead to listeriosis, a serious disease with an incubation period of up to eight weeks. Pregnant women should pay particular attention if they experience these symptoms, as should people with reduced immunity and the elderly. Those who show symptoms after eating the product should immediately consult a doctor.

Which products are being recalled?

The Pinguin brand: extra fine peas, very fine peas, medium-fine peas, fine peas, broken beans and young carrots, 10 mixed soup vegetables, minestrone, summer vegetables and fitmix. 

D’Lis: paella with seafood and chicken. 

The Delhaize brand: extra fine peas and young carrots and a vegetable mix for tomato soup. 

Colruyt: the nasi goreng and bami goreng of the Everyday brand and the mix paysanne and bio-peas of the Boni brand have been recalled.

Arthur Rubinstein
The Brussels Times