The agency plans to conduct a four-week intensive, on-site spot-inspection of all plants producing cold meats in Sweden this month and next to appraise what steps companies are taking to ensure listeria-free production areas.
More than 80 cases of the deadly bacteria have been detected in Sweden since September 2013, and 27 of these involved infections contracted from the same bacteria strain.
In the latest development, the Swedish supermarket chain Axfood recalled smoked ham and garlic salami meats after listeria was found in the Garant meat brand’s facility that produces cold cuts for supermarkets and delis. The recall includes both the 252 stores directly owned by Axfood and the 820 proprietor-run stores with which it co-operates under partnership agreements.
The products recalled include the smoked ham labelled Garant Flatrökt Skinka (Garant sliced smoked ham), Garant Basturökt Skinka (Garant sauna smoked ham) and Vitlökssalami (Garant garlic salami). All three products were manufactured at the same Garant cold meats factory in western Sweden.
"Information obtained from Garant confirms that the listeria bacteria was not found in actual products, but in an isolated part of the production facility. The recall is being carried out as a safety precaution," said Viktor Dahl, head of the Swedish food agency’s epidemiology, disease tracking and prevention unit.
The agency has been running multimedia health information campaigns in Sweden about the outbreaks since October 2013, targeting the most vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and those with immune deficiencies. The two main clinical manifestations of the potentially lethal food-borne listeria infections are sepsis and meningitis.
Axfood spokesman Ingmar Kroon said: "Customers have been informed of the risk involved and asked to return the products to the stores where they were purchased. Alternatively, they can discard the products, and we can advise on how to best to do this in a safe manner."