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Criticism and recalls in salmonella meat scandal

Food minister calls the failure to recall tainted meat "unacceptable", while the nation's largest retailer ends its partnership with meat producer.

Criticism and recalls in salmonella meat scandal
Food and Agriculture Minister Dan Jørgensen. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix
This week’s revelations that the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestrylsen) did not order a recall on salmonella-infected ground beef has now led to delayed recalls and further criticism of the food authorities. 
 
The nation’s largest retailer, Dansk Supermarked, which operates the supermarket chains Netto, Bilka and Føtex, has decided to immediately stop its partnershipp with meat producer Skare Meat Packers and has recalled Skare-produced meat packaged between June 13th and June 20th. Although those dates have long passed, the retailer is issuing the recall anyway, in case consumers have the tainted meat in their freezers. 
 
“Despite the producer of the ground beef, Skare Meat Packers, and Fødevarestrylsen knowing for over two months that Dansk Supermarked, along with other chains, had sold salmonella-infected mean back in June, neither Skare Meat Packers nor the food authorities informed Dansk Supermarked,” the retailer wrote in a press release. 
 
The supermarket chain Lidl followed suit on Tuesday and also issued a recall of meat from Skare. 
 
 
The food and agriculture minister, Dan Jørgensen, criticised Fødevarestrylsen’s handling of the case. 
 
“Consideration for consumers should always weigh heavy in the handling of these types of cases – particularly here, where there could still be meat from Skare in consumers’ freezers that should have been recalled long ago,” Jørgensen wrote in a press release. 
 
“With that in mind, I have now informed Fødevarestrylsen that consumers should always be informed if there is the slightest risk to consumers’ safety,” he added. 
 
Metroxpress newspaper revealed on Monday that ground beef infected with multi resistant salmonella was sold by Skare Meat Packers in June. 
 
Skare delivered the beef to stores on June 13th but did not recall it as required by law when an analysis the following day found the presence of salmonella. 
 
The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestrylsen) first traced the infection to Skare a full 40 days after the meat was sent to stores, but the food authorities did not require a recall, nor did it tell consumers where the meat was sold.
 
“This is confidential information, the release of which would cause considerable economic harm to the company,” Fødevarestrylsen wrote, according to Metroxpress.
 
According to the Danish State Serum Institute (SSI), 19 people, including a three-year-old boy, reported being ill just days after consuming the Skare meat. Beyond the 19 registered cases, SSI estimates that up to 130 people may have been sickened by the tainted meat. 
 
Fødevarestrylsen has also faced criticism for its handling of a listeria outbreak that is responsible for 16 deaths.

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HEALTH

Rare salmonella poisoning hits at least 23 in Denmark

Experts in Denmark are trying to locate the source of a salmonella outbreak that has resulted in 23 people being taken ill.

Rare salmonella poisoning hits at least 23 in Denmark
File photo: Simon Knudsen / Nf-Nf / Ritzau Scanpix

The bacteria in question is a rare form known as Salmonella Coeln, but the source is so far unknown.

People across the country have been affected by the outbreak, with a total of 13 women and 10 men so far confirmed ill, with half of those hospitalized after being infected, Ritzau reported on Tuesday afternoon.

“This is a (bacteria) type we don’t often see, maybe two to five cases yearly. So when 23 cases show up in one month, that’s an unusual situation,” said senior researcher Steen Ethelberg of the SSI disease research institute in Copenhagen.

The actual number of people to have been infected is likely to be higher than 23, Ethelberg added.

“We only register the sickest: people who go to the doctor and test positive for salmonella. We normally say there are 10 times as many who we don’t know about,” the researcher said.

SSI is now working together with the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration (Fødevarestyrelsen) and the Technical University of Denmark’s National Food Institute to find the source of the bacterial outbreak.

“We are interviewing the sick and asking where they have been and what they have eaten. We’re usually able to find a pattern. But with this outbreak, it’s not yet been possible to find a common factor, so we’re continuing the investigation,” Ethelberg said.

The affected individuals had not been abroad immediately prior to being taken ill, are located in different parts of the country, do not know each other and have not taken part in any common event.

That makes it likely that a widely-distributed food product is the cause of the outbreak.

Salmonella Coeln was described by Ethelberg as neither better nor worse than other types.

“You don’t get more sick from Salmonella Coeln than with other types of Salmonella,” he said.

Symptoms of infection by the bacteria include diarrhoea, stomach pains, fever, headache and possibly nausea and sickness. Illness can last from a few days to several weeks.

READ ALSO: What you need to know about taking sick leave in Denmark

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