A number of people have been arrested on allegations they knew that meat, which caused a large Listeria outbreak in Spain, was contaminated.
Individuals were aware since December 2018 that some of the food products contained Listeria, but they did not inform the authorities and continued to sell the food.
The outbreak from “La Mecha” brand chilled roasted pork produced by Magrudis affected more than 200 people, causing three deaths in elderly people and five pregnant women lost their babies. At the peak, 125 people were in the hospital. The outbreak was declared over by authorities this past month.
The operation, named Monocy, was led by the Spanish Civil Guard (Guardia Civil) with Europol’s support. Six people have been arrested and two people are held in provincial detention without bail.
Investigations found at least three of the people responsible for the products knew that a batch labeled in December 2018 was contaminated with Listeria but did not tell authorities. The withdrawal or destruction of the tainted products was not able to be proven. This batch could be behind several infections in the outbreak. Andalusian authorities first raised the alert about the outbreak in August this year.
The first reports of poisoning occurred on Aug. 5 in the province of Seville, although the first Listeria positives were not detected until Aug. 20.
17 tons of food to be destroyed
Officials confirmed the meat products from Magrudis were the reason for the first outbreaks detected in Seville in August.
Although activities of the company were mainly in Spain, there have been several cases in Europe: four members of a German family and a British citizen who was in France, are believed to have been poisoned.
A total of 17 tons of food contaminated with Listeria was seized and the products are set to be incinerated in Cadiz, Spain.
The outbreak was reported by Spanish authorities to the World Health Organization, via the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) in late August.
Results of the Civil Guard operation come as Facua, a group representing some of the victims, claimed a four person had died from the Listeria strain responsible for the outbreak. The consumer organization said a woman gave birth in late January, in her 29th week of pregnancy, but the baby died in a hospital in Seville on February 2. She had eaten La Mecha brand pork in December.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)