Listeriosis outbreak in EU member states

27 March 2018

Article: 52/1202

On 22 March 2018, the European Centre for the Prevention and Control of Disease (ECDC) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a rapid outbreak assessment concerning an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes which has affected five EU member states (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the UK) since 2015. As of 8 March 2018, 32 cases including six deaths have been reported.

Whole genome sequencing (WGS) was used to define the multi-country outbreak of L. monocytogenes serogroup IVb, multi-locus sequence type 6 and to identify the implicated food source. The investigations pointed towards frozen corn packed in Poland and processed and produced in Hungary. The report recommends further investigations to identify the exact point of contamination in the food chain. 

Food business operators in Poland, Finland, Sweden and Estonia have withdrawn and recalled the implicated products. These measures are likely to reduce the risk of human infections in these countries. However, new cases may be identified due to the long incubation period of listeriosis (up 22 to 70 days), the long shelf-life of frozen corn products and the potential consumption of frozen corn bought before the recall was implemented. To reduce the risk of L. monocytogenes infection from frozen corn, consumers are being urged to adequately heat frozen vegetables that are not ready-to-eat products. This applies especially to consumers at the highest risk of contracting listeriosis, such as the elderly, pregnant women, new-borns and adults with weakened immune systems.

Source: ECDC News Release, 22 March 2018