Opinion

Frozen veg recall has some salutary lessons

By Rod Addy

- Last updated on GMT

Rod Addy: ‘This would not have presented an issue if the products had been properly cooked’
Rod Addy: ‘This would not have presented an issue if the products had been properly cooked’
I have been following avidly the latest developments in the Europe-wide recall of frozen vegetable products linked to the outbreak of listeria that has made 47 people ill and killed nine of those, as much from the point of view of a concerned consumer as in a professional capacity.

The incident, which has been rumbling on for at least three years now, hit home with the precautionary recall of products supplied to top supermarkets by Greenyard UK, a national subsidiary of the European company identified as the source of the strain of listeria associated with the outbreak.

While tests have revealed contamination, this would not have presented an issue if the products had been properly cooked.

Ignoring cooking instructions

The suggestion is that there is a real craze at the moment for shoppers defrosting frozen veg and including that in, say, salads without cooking it, despite the fact that there are clear cooking instructions on packs.

I wonder how many consumer crazes end up influencing foodservice operators. Franchisees of even major chains, such as KFC, feel pressure to top up from big supermarkets when they have stock crises.

I start thinking about how many ready-to-eat salads I have eaten over the summer so far, without knowing if all the vegetables inside them had been cooked or otherwise properly prepared. Good luck to the Food Standards Agency in trying to police these issues.

Not the only pathogen

Since I have a reasonably well-functioning immune system, listeria shouldn’t be a major issue for me, although of course it’s not the only pathogen out there. As if having an eight-month-old baby wasn’t enough to keep me up at night.

All of this serves as a salutary reminder to use every tool available to monitor the whole supply chain and to ask probing questions, rather than making assumptions that best practice is being adhered to. The alternative is just too risky. Don’t think the situation is going to get easier after Brexit either.

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