The news of six people death in Italy for eating raw sausages contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes it went almost unnoticed, even though the alarm went off in many supermarket chains. The Food Fact it is the only site that talked about it in an article we published on September 26th after having viewed documents from the European Rapid Alert System (Rasff). The signs in the stores appeared on Friday 23 September and in many cases the product branding did not appear. The ads only showed the name of the manufacturing company indicated on the label (Agricola Tre Valli Soc. Coop, plant in piazzale Apollinare Veronesi 1, in San Martino Buon Albergo, in the province of Verona) and the identification mark (IT 04 M CE) . However, the Aia frankfurters and the other brands involved almost never appear in the cartels, making it difficult for consumers to identify. There’s more: on the packaging of Aia sausages, for example, only the manufacturer’s headquarters can be found (Manufactured in the S.Martino BA (VR) factory. CE stamp IT 04 M CE) and not the name of the Tre Valli farm. This means that in order to trace the contaminated packages, the European stamp must be checked (Bollo CE IT 04 M CE), and this is not entirely obvious.
The problem it concerns at least three types of Wudy Aia frankfurters (Classic, Cheese and Classic snack) with an expiration date from 20 September 2022 to 5 December 2022. This means that the products can still be on the shelves or in the refrigerators at home. In the alert documents released at European level, other lesser known brands are also mentioned such as: Wür, Pavo, Golo, Salumeo di Lidl and Salchicha, for which there are no more precise indications. The Töbias brand of the Eurospin supermarket chain (we talk about it here) also appears on the list, but the brand withdrew from the shelves with a first official announcement at the end of August 2022 and a second notice in September. Another thing to note is that the contamination only affects the indicated batches that have an expiration date between September 20, 2022 and December 5, 2022.
A number of victims and of people involved so high is to be connected to the very widespread bad habit of eating raw sausages. On the packaging it is written “To be consumed after careful cooking”, but people read little, are distracted and don’t know that frankfurters must be cooked before putting them on the table. Just think about how many rice salads they prepare in summer, adding sausages cut into small pieces without having cooked them. Boiling, on the other hand, is absolutely necessary to neutralize the bacteria still present. It is true that the production line foresees the pasteurization of the sausages, but in this case the contamination presumably occurred after the heat treatment in the packaging phase (the Rasff report speaks of environmental contamination).
The Hague itself shows the phrase on the packaging between the modalities of use “Preparation: cook in a pan or on the plate, turning for 3/4 minutes or boil in boiling water for 3/4 minutes”. For this reason, the company did not directly recall the sausages by giving the announcement, but the communication was disseminated by the producer to the supermarkets. If consumers had followed the instructions scrupulously, there would have been no six victims and 61 people involved. The responsibility also lies with the Tre Valli Agricultural Company because if, as it presumably happened, the contamination occurred at the end of the production line, once the company had discovered the problem it should have promptly identified the causes and then to the withdrawal and recall of the product. Unfortunately, this element is accompanied by the lightness of consumers accustomed to eating raw sausages without following the instructions for use.
The matter is very serious, so much so that the Ministry of Health issued a long press release on Friday 23 September 2022 in which it alerts consumers, without mentioning the brands involved, but only the name of the producer Agricola Tre Valli – IT 04 M CE. The text does not say that the European health authorities have issued an alert which shows that the dead are six and the people affected 61. We are talking about a problem that was detected by the Italian ASL at the beginning of August 2022, and for the which we must believe that there have been investigations and insights that have led to circumscribe and better identify the fact and its etiology only at the beginning of September. The Rasff report indicates September 12, 2022 as the day when there is a high charge of Listeria monocytogenes in the samples. The Italian health authorities are quite sure of the correlation between würstel and Listeria, because through an epidemiological examination they identified the frankfurters as likely responsible for the contamination. The hypothesis was confirmed by subsequent tests that found the presence of the strain of Listeria monocytogenes ST 155 both on samples still packaged and at the Tre Valli farm.
Previously, in the months of August and September, the suspicions were directed to the Asiago cheese which, following in-depth examinations, was totally cleared. One wonders why the ministry did not adequately inform people, specifying that Asiago cheese was mistakenly involved in the affair. The second question concerns the failure to indicate in the press release of Friday 23 September the brands involved and the expiration dates of the lots concerned. Yet the documents leave no room for doubts about the gravity of the situation and the extent of the problem that affects almost all of the Italian regions. The document details the list of the supermarket chains concerned that have distributed the sausages. In the list we find: Lidl, Eurospin, Esselunga, Penny market, Conad, Sogegross, Unes, Bennet, Prix, Tigros … Faced with such a case, perhaps the Ministry of Health should take the field reminding people that sausages do not go eaten raw.
On the base than what is reported in the 72 pages of the European report that chronicles the entire story, we are facing one of the most serious cases of food contamination in Italy in the last 50 years both for the number of victims and for the wide distribution on the territory of the products involved.
The Tre Valli Farm in a press release arrived yesterday in the editorial office, he categorically denies that there is technical-scientific evidence that could lead to correlating the cases of death due to listeriosis and the frankfurters produced by Agricola Tre Valli. “The cooperative company – it is specified – has activated a voluntary withdrawal procedure in agreement with the Competent Authorities with relative information notice on the correct use of the food exclusively as a precaution, as the incorrect storage of the product and the failure to comply with the cooking methods listed on the label could make the food unsuitable for consumption from a microbiological point of view.
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Roberto La Pira