A political party in Germany has criticized the time it took for a long-running Listeria outbreak to be solved.

The Social Democratic Party (SPD) in Bayern said it was shocked by the lack of checks at the implicated company. The opposition group had previously called on the governing Christian Social Union and Free Voters of Bavaria parties to provide clarity on the incident.

In July, the Bavarian State Office for Health and Food Safety (LGL) said it helped identify a connection between Listeria infections in Lower Bavaria and the district of Altötting since 2015 and a food company.

There were 13 cases of illness, including the death of an 85-year-old man in 2015. Two cases were reported in 2015, one in 2016, two in 2017, one each in 2018, 2019 and 2020, four in 2021 and one in 2022.  

The small produce company in Lower Bavaria linked to the outbreak was temporarily told to halt production, according to information given to SPD. Local media reported operations had been allowed to resume this month after negative testing and corrective actions were taken.

A report shows the company was visited by officials in the district of Passau in December 2014 with a follow-up check in March 2015. A fine was imposed due to issues found during the audit. It was next checked in July 2021. The public prosecutor’s office in Passau is investigating how the incident was handled.

This means the entire outbreak occurred during a period in which operations were not controlled, said SPD.

Further delay
In 2020, an analysis of human isolates by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) found that a couple of listeriosis cases per year in different districts in Lower Bavaria and Altötting from 2015 to 2019 were related. Until this point, they were thought to be isolated cases with no connection to each other.

SPD officials asked why it took more than two years from this discovery – until June 2022 – before the outbreak could be connected to the company.

Ruth Müller, from the SPD party, said: “First there was no control of the company for six years, then it took more than two years to find out what happened. Consumer protection can’t work like that.

“People were injured here, one even died. The state government has learned nothing from Bayern-Ei. The ministry’s job is to protect people’s health. However, this requires decisive action and controls that deserve their name and are not delayed,” she said.

Bayern-Ei was a company linked to a multi-country Salmonella egg outbreak in 2014.

Earlier this month, Thorsten Glauber, Bavaria’s consumer protection minister announced changes to food monitoring and veterinary services. Supervision of the Control Authority for Food Safety and Veterinary Affairs (KBLV), which was created in 2018, was moved to the Ministry of Consumer Protection from the LGL.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)