Hungary’s food agency has launched a survey to find out more on people’s habits related to quick-frozen vegetables.

The National Food Chain Safety Office (Nébih) said it would provide the authority with a picture of the risks at the consumer level for the product category.

An online questionnaire can be completed until March 31 and covers consumer preferences for frozen vegetables and whether they follow the instructions on the label. There are also questions on Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella and E. coli.

Past outbreak
From 2015 to 2018, an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes caused by contamination of frozen corn produced in Hungary by Greenyard affected five countries in Europe as well as Australia with 54 confirmed patients and 10 deaths.

Despite the contamination, illnesses could have been prevented or reduced if people had been aware of the food safety risks and how to avoid them, according to Nébih.

To identify the hazards and reduce the risks, the agency is going to assess domestic consumer habits.

The questionnaire seeks answers to what Hungarian consumers think about quick-frozen products, how often they eat them and their preparation habits. The survey also looks at whether people are aware of food safety risks during purchase, transport, home storage and preparation and their knowledge about refrigerator and freezer temperatures as well as thawing and refreezing.

Based on the results, Nébih will put together a guide for consumers highlighting the most important findings. The agency will also give advice on how to minimize the food safety risks associated with quick-frozen vegetables in households.

Inspections find hygiene problems and expired food
Meanwhile, Nébih inspectors suspended operations at a confectionery plant in mid-February because of hygiene issues.

Officials found the site was dirty with unclean equipment and tools and live rodents in the factory in Budapest.

An onsite inspection revealed food was stored on the floor exposing it to the risk of contamination. Eggs and broken eggs were uncovered and handwashing facilities in the production area were faulty.

Inspectors also found gaps in the production and traceability records of the business for the items produced. The authority stopped 519 kilograms of products being sent to market and ordered a recall of food made by the business.

Seized product with a date in 2015

The company, Házi Mézes Kft, will be able to restart activities after deficiencies have been rectified, following a positive onsite inspection by the authority.

Finally, at the end of 2021, Nébih inspectors found more than 400 items of food, some of which had expired five to six years ago, during an inspection of several warehouses in the city of Pest.

The authority stopped items being sent to market and ordered the withdrawal of more than 40 tons of expired food. They named the affected company as Everest Top Trading and said a fine was pending.

During the multiple inspections at several food storage premises in December, officials found cocoa that expired in 2015, sweets with a date of 2016, baking powder from 2017 also foods of animal origin that had expired several months ago.

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