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Listeria Investigation Update


Listeria Investigation Update

The Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) has recommended that further production of ready-to-eat products stops pending full sanitisation of the plant at Leonard’s Superior Smallgoods Ltd. Leonard’s is cooperating with ARPHS’s advice, and has ceased production of these products and agreed to clean and disinfect to standards agreed by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).

ARPHS has made this recommendation as a result of further positive listeria tests in ready-to-eat samples and in swabs from the factory environment at Leonard’s premises. This product has not been released to the market.

“We are dedicating all available medical expertise and public health specialist resources to resolving this issue,” said Dr Julia Peters, clinical director, ARPHS.

This investigation will be ongoing until ARPHS, NZFSA and Leonard’s are satisfied that the causes of the contamination are understood and appropriate procedures are in place to minimise the risk of future contamination. However, from the beginning of this investigation all necessary steps have been taken to ensure the public’s protection.

Listeria is a common bacterium which is found in soil, water, plants, sewage and animal droppings and constant vigilance when preparing and handling food is necessary.

Dr Peters said that, “In these cases prompt food safety action is important and it is critical that food safety investigations follow a thorough regime of contain, control and confirm.”

Contain – We isolate and withdraw from trade any contaminated product batches and precautions are taken to ensure potentially affected product is not distributed. We alert the public to any health risk and provide medical advice to those people potentially affected.

In this case all medical officers of health in the areas with affected food outlets were contacted by ARPHS and alerted to the listeria contamination. In addition all New Zealand medical officers of health as well as the New Zealand College of Midwives, The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners, health officials, all PHOs in the Auckland region and concerned agencies were informed. Affected food outlets are actively sought out and given advice and public-health-alert notices are placed at the identified premises.

Control – We rigorously investigate and sample to find the source of contamination. Systems and food safety practices within the factory and high care areas are reviewed and to ensure the food handling production chain is safe, robust and sustainable.

Confirm – We confirm that food safety systems are working properly. When the environment has been cleared production of ready-to-eat foods can restart. At this time a regime of test, hold and release for all product will be enforced. A series of negative results is required before any product is released. New Zealand has high food safety standards with zero tolerance for listeria in ready-to-eat foods.

“We’ve taken three calls from concerned members of the public and none of these people have been associated with the affected product,“ said Dr Peters.

To date, ARPHS has not received notification of any cases of Listeriosis associated with the affected product.

ARPHS is continuing to work closely with the concerned agencies and the regulatory authorities.

Information about listeria and food safety practices can be found at http://www.arphs.govt.nz/Media_Releases/media_releases.asp

Ends

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