Owner of food company responsible for Spain’s worst ever listeriosis outbreak arrested for manslaughter

Eva Saiz of El Pais reports the owners of the food company responsible for the worst-ever listeriosis outbreak in Spain were arrested on Wednesday for manslaughter.

Since August, the outbreak has killed three people, caused seven miscarriages, and infected more than 200 people. The source of the bacterial infection was traced to a Seville-based company called Magrudis, which sold a contaminated pork loin product called carne mechada under the brand name La Mechá. Three more products produced by the company also tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

The owners of Magrudis, José Antonio Marín Pince and his two children Sandro and Mario, have been accused, to different degrees, of involuntary manslaughter, crimes against health and causing injury to a fetus.

According to investigators, the three men knew in February that some of their products had been contaminated but did nothing to eliminate the bacteria from their facilities. Instead they continued producing and distributing their products.

“When the crisis broke, we reminded the business by email that one of their samples had been contaminated much earlier. Given that they did nothing, we passed on this information to the courts,” José Antonio Borrás, the owner of the Microal Group laboratory, told EL PAÍS.

The laboratory handed a report to the court in early September, and according to sources close to the investigation, the contents prompted Judge Pilar Ordóñez, who is overseeing the case, to take action on Tuesday.

Neither laboratories nor companies are legally obliged to warn the authorities if a product is found to test positive, but a company does have a duty to adopt measures to correct the problem. Investigators want to find out why the owners of Magrudis did not do this, and why, more importantly they hid the positive test results from health inspectors who visited the factory after the alert was raised. In public appearances, both Marín and his son Sandro claimed that the company had successfully passed all sanitary controls.

Traces of listeria were found in tests carried out on the Magrudis production line, including the oven carts used to transport the meat during the preparation process, and the larding needles used to inject the pork with fat before cooking. The crisis was complicated by the fact that the company’s products had been sold on to another firm and prepared for sale as an own-brand product in a supermarket chain without the proper labelling.

Ignoring the safety: Listeria meat firm in Spain knew its products were infected, months before outbreak

That safety is always going off. We won’t get caught. No one got sick yesterday, so there’s a greater chance no one will get sick today.

These basics of the human psyche continue to undermine tragedies from Bhopal to BP to the Challenger and food safety.

But with all the toys and technology, you’ll be found out – so act accordingly, even if decent humanity is not enough against the directive of profit.

What’s going on in Spain is strikingly similar to what happened in New Zealand in 2012. More about that later.

In Aug. 2019, an outbreak of listeriosis in Spain was detected and reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) on Aug. 16, 2019.
To date, three people have died and more than 200 have been sickened from Listeria linked to chilled roasted pork meat products manufactured in southern Spain by Seville-based Magrudis Company and sold under the brand name La Mechá.

James Warren of EuroWeekly reports today that according to sources from Seville City Council and the Ministry of Health, the Laboratorios Microal sounded the alarm on February 18, 2019 after samples of the shredded meat product were sent to them for evaluation.

Mariano Barroso, the manager of the quality control and research at Microal, said that of the two samples that were submitted, one came back as positive.

A further test to determine the level of contamination was requested by the laboratory but the food manufacturer refused to agree to the tests.

Barrosco went on to clarify that the company did not inform the authorities as “in their line of work it is common to find forms of bacteria. It is the role of the manufacturer to remove the product from its production lines.”

In July 2012, a meat processor, its director and an employee have admitted selling Listeria-contaminated meat to the Hawke’s Bay Hospital in New Zealand and omitting to provide test results showing meat had tested positive.

The Hawke’s Bay District Health Board discovered cold ready to eat meats supplied by the company was contaminated in July 2012, after a number of Listeria cases had been linked to the hospital kitchen.

The outbreak claimed the life of 68-year-old Patricia Hutchinson on June 9 that year, and contributed to the death of an 81-year-old woman on July 9. Two other people were infected.

When the health board discovered a link between the infections and the hospital kitchen it sent 62 unopened plastic pouches of Bay Cuisine meat products to ESR for testing. All the pouches were found to contain Listeria.

A summary of facts complied by the Ministry for Primary Industries said the company had the contract to supply the hospital since 2002.

The summary states that on July 9, 2012 the DHB requested copies of all test results Bay Cuisine had carried out for Listeria. Production manager Christopher Mackie replied by telling the DHB a batch of corned silverside had tested negative for Listeria, when in fact it had tested “presumptive positive”.

The following day an officer from the Ministry, investigating the Listeria cases at the hospital, requested test results. Mackie sent these on July 13 but again omitted reports showing that some products had tested “presumptive positive”.

But analysis of cellphone text messages between MacKie and company director Garth Wise show that on the evening of July 12 Wise had sent a text to Mackie suggesting that he “hold back the presumptive listeria ones [results] as there is only 3 or 4 of them and we just send the good”.

A subsequent search of the Bay Cuisine premises by the Ministry found the company had not provided the original, correct spreadsheet to the Ministry. This spreadsheet showed positive Listeria tests for meat products on June 18 and July 10.

In 2009, the operator of a yakiniku barbecue restaurant chain linked to four deaths and 70 illnesses from E. coli O111 in raw beef in Japan admitted it had not tested raw meat served at its outlets for bacteria, as required by the health ministry.

“We’d never had a positive result [from a bacteria test], not once. So we assumed our meat would always be bacteria-free.”

Same story, varying locales.

Listeria in Spain: 3 miscarriages, almost 200 sick

Lucy Domachowski of the Daily Star writes that three pregnant women have suffered miscarriages and nearly 200 people hospitalised with listeria as an outbreak of the infection grips Spain’s holiday spots.

A nationwide alert has been sent out after listeria, a bacteria which can cause a type of food poisoning called listeriosis, was suspected in packaged pork.

Two of the miscarriages happened in Seville and the other in Madrid.

One devastated mother lost her baby at 32 weeks, while the others lost their little ones just eight weeks into pregnancy.

Most of the 197 cases have occurred in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia but people have fallen ill across the country, from Madrid to the island of Tenerife.

Spanish authorities have said as many as five pregnant women may have lost their babies to the outbreak, and three people may have died – but stats are yet to be confirmed.

Salmonella in Spain: 50 UK holidaymakers hit

Brett Gibbons and James Rodger of Birmingham Live report that more than 50 people have been struck by salmonella in Majorca.

Holidaymakers are among those affected by the outbreak of the deadly food poisoning on the holiday island.

A La Liga footballer, who plays for Real Mallorca, is among those affected.

The player has not been named.

The outbreak comes after a listeria epidemic, which affected hundreds in the Andalusia region on the Spanish mainland.

The source of the Majorca salmonella outbreak is believed to be linked to a Japanese restaurant in the island capital of Palma, reports WalesOnline.

It has since been closed as a preventative measure.

The first cases were reported last week, according to the local Ultima Hora newspaper.

Emergency units on the island received several patients reporting food poisoning symptoms after eating at the restaurant, which as then identified as the source of the illness.

The Balearic Islands’ public health department says the number of cases could rise even higher because some are not reported immediately when initial symptoms are less severe.

Proceedings against the restaurant have been opened by local government bodies.

Thousands of British holidaymakers visit Majorca each year with many heading to resorts like Magaluf and Palma Nova that are just a short bus or taxi ride from the capital.

175 now sick with Listeria in Spanish outbreak

Jack Guy of CNN reports Spain’s health ministry has issued an international health warning over a listeria outbreak that has infected 175 people.

The bacteria was detected in a processed meat product manufactured in the city of Seville, in the southern region of Andalucia, according to an alert published Tuesday.

“My priority is to avoid the spread of the outbreak,” said Spain’s acting health minister María Luisa Carcedo, in a video watched by CNN. 

The country has informed the World Health Organization (WHO) and the European Commission about the outbreak. 

It comes during peak tourist season in Spain, with Andalucia a popular destination among visitors.

Fifty people remained in hospital Wednesday, 23 of whom were pregnant women, according to Reuters.

80 sick: Listeria outbreak in Spain

Charlie Smith of The Olive Press reports 80 people have now contracted listeria in Andalucia, 15 of whom are pregnant.

The disease, which can be fatal, has hospitalised 56 of those who have been infected, according to the Junta de Andalucia.

Several of those infected are believed to have eaten the meat products of the Sevilla-based pork firm Magrudis.

The company’s star product, its meatloaf, called ‘Mecha’ has been widely cited by Spanish media as the source of the spread of Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.

The family-run business, which launched in 2013, ceased production on August 15, while a spokesperson said: “I’m very sorry, from now on we are not going to make any more statements about it.”

It comes after the company admitted that over 2,000 packs of its meat products were infected with the bacteria.

Most hospitalised patients are in Sevilla, with 43 recorded so far in the Andalucian capital.

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Three Brit kids hospitalized after sickness bug outbreak at 5-star Menorca hotel

Charlotte Nisbet and Neil Murphy of the Mirror write that three British children have been hospitalised after a ‘frightening sickness bug’ outbreak at a five-star resort.

Louise Hunter, of St Helens, Merseyside, booked a family holiday to Insotel Punta Prima Resort & Spa, Menorca, Spain, with her husband Steven, 44, and their children Rosie, four, and Sarah, two.

Their trip quickly turned ‘hellish’ when Sarah woke in the early hours of the Sunday morning, May 3, having spent just one full day at the resort.

Louise, 36, says the toddler ‘projectile vomited in her sleep’ before both children became unwell with diarrhoea.

She claims both her children were later taken to a local hospital and given intravenous fluids and medication.

They consulted holiday illness compensation lawyers Hudgell Solicitors on their return after spending £2,000 on their all-inclusive holiday.

The legal specialists are now working with another family who have claimed they suffered a similar ordeal.

Jade Fulbrook, 33, booked her husband Dave and their family, a break for £2,800 between May 6 and 13 with their children, Zachary, 12, Buddy, six, Oscar 10 and three-year-old Bella, from Dorset.

Jade claims both herself and Oscar were hospitalised with acute gastroenteritis and dehydration after contracting a sickness bug at the resort.

The cause of the sickness bug is unknown, but solicitors are now investigating.

A TUI UK spokesperson said: “We are very sorry to hear of these customers’ experiences on their holiday. As this is now a legal matter, it would be inappropriate to comment further.

“We’d like to reassure customers that we regularly audit all of our hotels in respect of health and safety, including hygiene.”

Fancy food ain’t safe food: Spanish woman dies after eating at Michelin-starred restaurant in Valencia

Christina Vazquez of El Pais reports an investigation has been opened to determine the cause of death of a 46-year-old woman, who became ill after eating at a one-star Michelin restaurant called RiFF in Valencia.

A total of 23 other patrons, including the victim’s husband and 12-year-old son, also fell sick after the meal but their symptoms were mild and they have reportedly all recovered. The restaurant will be closed to the public until the cause of death has been established.

Everything appears to be normal and now analytical tests will be carried out on the food products

The case was confirmed by regional health chief Ana Barceló, who expressed her condolences to the family and said that an investigation was already underway.

Barceló added that at this point she could not confirm whether the sickness had been caused by morel mushrooms that were on the restaurant’s menu. “We will have to wait for the autopsy to be carried out on the woman before we can determine whether it was the ingestion of a food that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome, or if she had an exisiting condition,” she explained on Wednesday.

Forensic teams are working to determine whether she could have been poisoned by something she ate, or whether she may have choked on her own vomit.

In a statement, the owner of RiFF, Bernd H. Knöller, announced that the restaurant will remain closed until the cause of the food poisoning outbreak is determined and “activities can resume with full assurances for the staff and the patrons.”

Jigsaw puzzle: France reports Salmonella poona cases in infants

Outbreak News Today reports that health officials in France are reporting four Salmonella Poona cases in infants whose strains are genetically linked.

The babies, two months to ten months in age, were sickened between the end of August 2018 and the end of December 2018. Three babies were hospitalized for their salmonellosis and all have been released.

Early investigations reveal a common food source with the four infants–powdered milk of the same brand produced by the same factory in Spain.

Investigations are currently being conducted with the Spanish authorities and the manufacturer to define the management measures to be put in place.

Operation Tarantelo: How the illegal bluefin tuna market made over eur 12 million a year selling fish in Spain

Europol coordinated the international Operation Tarantelo, conducted by the Spanish Guardia Civil with support of French, Italian, Maltese and Portuguese authorities, in which 79 individuals were arrested.

More than 80 000 kg of illicit Bluefin tuna were seized and it is estimated the network trafficked a volume of over 2.5 million kg a year

Several poisoning cases were detected due to the unsanitary conditions in which the fish were stored

Operation Tarantelo was launched when the Spanish Guardia Civil became aware of irregularities relating to Bluefin tuna fishing in the Mediterranean Sea. Investigations revealed that the fish was being traded illegally in Spain, but imported into the country through French harbours, after being caught in Italian and Maltese waters. While the fish caught in Maltese waters were illegally imported using documents from legal fishing and authorised farms, the fish caught in Italian waters arrived in Spain without documents or inspections. Although most of the fish was caught in Malta and Italy, in Spanish waters there were also unauthorised catches, in this case, the illegally fished Bluefin tuna was transported in false bottoms under the deck of a vessel.

This illegal Bluefin tuna market was up to 2.5 million kg a year and it is estimated criminals earn at least EUR 5 profit per kg; total illegal profits amount to EUR 12.5 million. The volume of this illegal trade is double the annual volume of the legal trade, which is estimated to be 1.25 million kg.

The tuna business is often linked to other crimes such as food fraud or document fraud. The main risks for consumer health were due to the unsanitary conditions in which the fish was transported and stored. Sometimes the fish was hidden underwater after it was fished, awaiting transportation. The supply chain was interrupted several times, which made the tuna go off and the risk of food poising higher for eventual customers. Several cases of food poisoning were detected after eating the tuna, due to the degradation of proteins from the unhygienic conditions in which the tuna was stored.