Australian authorities have identified a fatal Listeria infection in their country that is linked to a deadly outbreak from frozen vegetables in five European countries.

The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services said the case, reported earlier this year, has been tied to the strain in Europe that has infected at least 47 and killed nine people in Finland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark and Austria. The Australian agency said it is the same serotype with similar genetics.

The infected person in Australia died, so authorities were not able to confirm whether the victim consumed any of the implicated frozen vegetables. Australia has recalled a range of imported frozen vegetables.

This year in Victoria, 15 cases of listeriosis have been reported to the Department of Health and Human Services, compared to 12 for the same period in 2017. There were 21 cases in all of 2017; 25 in 2016; and 22 in 2015.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has warned vulnerable people to check freezers for recalled frozen vegetable products possibly contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.

Acting CEO Peter May said: “While many people will follow cooking instructions properly (which should kill Listeria bacteria) we are aware that some people eat frozen vegetables straight from the freezer and there is a risk of some people not cooking produce properly.”

Greenyard Frozen Belgium NV conducted the recall of certain products sold at Woolworths, Aldi, IGA, Campbells and independent grocery stores in Australia.

The company also recalled certain frozen vegetables in New Zealand. 

Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) food compliance services group manager Melinda Sando said there have been no reports of associated illness in the country.

“People need to follow instructions on the label and observe good food safety practices to keep themselves safe,” she said. 

“Cooking frozen veggies before eating them is particularly important if you are in one of the more vulnerable groups that include the elderly, pregnant women, babies, and people with weakened immune systems.”

In the United Kingdom, Greenyard Frozen UK recalled various frozen vegetable products sold at Waitrose, Aldi, Tesco, Sainbury’s, Lidl and Iceland.

The suspected food source was initially believed to be just frozen corn but has been expanded to include other frozen vegetables. The outbreak is believed to have begun in 2015.

Greenyard, a producer of fresh, frozen and prepared fruit and vegetables, previously told Food Safety News that production is on hold at the Hungarian plant suspected to be where products where made until the cause of contamination is found and eliminated.

In late June, the Hungarian Food Chain Safety Office banned the marketing of certain frozen products made by the plant between Aug. 13, 2016, and June 20, 2018. Authorities also ordered a product withdrawal and recall.

Frozen corn and vegetable mixes were distributed to plants belonging to the company in EU Member States, including Belgium, UK, Germany, France and Poland. Final products were also sent to Romania, Italy, Slovenia, Slovakia, Germany, Finland, Czech Republic, Croatia and Austria.

Cyprus, Denmark, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands and South Africa are also impacted, according to the RASFF portal. 

New cases may be identified due to the long incubation period of listeriosis, which is up to 70 days, the long shelf life of frozen vegetables, and possible future consumption of implicated product bought before the recall.

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