Global fruit and vegetable giant Greenyard has announced that it has found the root cause of the Listeria outbreak that hit the headlines earlier in the year, while also revealing that it was ready to restart production at the affected facility in Baja, Hungary.
In July, Greenyard reported on the recall of frozen products that were produced by its Hungarian production facility in Baja between 13 August 2016 and 20 June 2018, and on the ongoing investigations into an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes between 2015 and 2018.
The recall was initiated following a decision taken by the Hungarian National Food Chain Safety Office of 29 June 2018, in line with the report of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regarding the outbreak. In parallel Greenyard immediately stopped production at the Baja facility.
As a result, Greenyard conducted a large in-depth review of the facility to identify the root cause of the potential contamination.
According to the company the review has been successful, resulting in the identification of the listeria root cause, given predominantly a persistent presence of Listeria in one of the two freezing tunnels.
As a result, Greenyard has decided to close down this tunnel (which produces around 3 per cent of the volume produced by its frozen activities, and has reviewed the clearance of the facility together with the authorities.
The restart of the factory will happen under strict supervision, with Greenyard adopting a series of stringent release procedures and maintaining the procedures as long as it deems it necessary.
"Following this clearance, Greenyard is ready to supply customers with products from its Hungarian facility and in addition we have secured alternative solutions to compensate for temporary unavailability of certain products to ensure that our customers experience the least possible inconvenience," the group stated. "Greenyard regrets the impact this potential contamination case and the subsequent recall has had for our customers and consumers, and thanks its customers and consumers for their continued support and trust.
"Health and food safety are our number one priority at any time, and this has allowed us to identify and remedy the situation, in line with all rules and procedures and in close collaboration with competent authorities."
Greenyard said that it is now taking a leading role in the frozen industry to further increase industry standards, and is working in close collaboration with industry representatives on the matter.
At its’ own initiative, Greenyard has decided to produce at stricter levels that are well below the legal thresholds and to implement additional safety and cleaning measures, while the group is also seeking out quality management and is in the process of recruiting a group quality and food safety manager.
Greenyard has not received any claim or further official information concerning or resulting directly from the Listeria breakout.
"We refer to the EFSA website for further information on the research on the link between the breakout and our Hungarian plant," the group said. "In line with local authorities, Greenyard would like to stress again that cooking instructions on the package are to be followed to properly prepare frozen products.
"With the restart of the plant, Greenyard is confident that the full financial impact of the recall will remain within the earlier mentioned €30m (net after insurance).