Frozen sweetcorn believed to be behind listeriosis outbreak in UK and Europe

Precautionary advice on cooking frozen vegetables

The Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland, Public Health England and Health Protection Scotland are reminding people that most frozen vegetables, including sweetcorn, need to be cooked before eating.

People should always follow manufacturers’ instructions when preparing their food. This includes when adding them to salads, smoothies or dips.

If the product is not labelled as “ready to eat”, the cooking instructions should always be followed before eating the food hot or cold.

Frozen corn and possibly other frozen vegetables are the likely source of an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes.  Listeriosis is a rare but serious food-borne illness caused by the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes. It can be more serious for those individuals who have weakened immune systems and also the elderly, pregnant women and infants

The outbreak has has been affecting Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom since 2015. As of 8 June 2018, 47 cases including nine deaths had been reported.


Product recall

On 29 June 2018, the Hungarian Food Chain Safety Office banned the marketing of all frozen vegetable and frozen mixed vegetable products produced by the affected plant between August 2016 and June 2018. It also ordered their immediate withdrawal and recall. This last measure is likely to significantly reduce the risk of human infections and contain the outbreak. All freezing activity at the plant has been stopped.

New cases could still emerge due to the long incubation period of listeriosis (up to 70 days); the long shelf-life of frozen corn products; and the consumption of frozen corn bought before the recalls and eaten without being cooked properly.