Following the death of a young boy due to a suspected E. coli outbreak in Norway, discounter Lidl has halted sales of ground beef produced in the country.
The death serves as warning to the processing industry that a company's future lies in the hands of its plant food safety managers. In addition to damage to reputation, food contamination can lead to huge expenses due to product recalls, fines and loss of market share.
Norway's food safety agency yesterday reported that Lidl has reported finding the E. coli 103 contamination in ground beef in its "Gullgrytten" brand of ground beef. The meat is processed at the Gilde Fosen plant, and is ground and packaged by Vestfold Kjøttråvare.
The packages are marked with product number 327, Norway's food authority Mattilsynet reported in a statement on its website.
The meat became suspect after nine children suddenly became ill over the past week with a syndrome known as HUS (Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome), which leads to acute kidney failure. A four-year-old boy subsequently died.
Mattilsynet stated it is now analysing other meat products produced by Vestfold kjøttvare for other food retailers. The results are expected tomorrow.
Norway's food authority also advised consumers yesterday not to eat food made from ground beef from any producer, purchased between 1 January and 24 February regardless of origin, according to local press reports today.
"All products made with ground beef from this period should be left in the freezer until we know more," the director of the food inspection agency, Joakim Lystad told the Norway Post.
The cases is similar to the E. coli outbreak in Wales, the UK last year, which ended up in the closure of a meat processing company. The outbreak of E. coli 0157 in November last year resulted in the death of a five-year-old boy and caused sickness in scores of schoolchildren.
John Tudor & Sons, which supplied schools, retirement homes and retail outlets, was later investigated by food inspectors in relation to disinfection procedures and its vacuum packing process at its plant in South Wales.
The plant reopened in December but management has since decided to close for good, making all staff redundant.