Meals on Wheels in South Australia is undertaking an urgent product recall of all frozen meals sold in the state. On Thursday, the organisation released a statement explaining that Listeria monocytogenes had been detected in some meals following testing.
Listeriosis is an illness usually caused by eating food contaminated by the bacterium listeria monocytogenes. The bacteria are widely distributed in the environment and can grow in food at refrigeration temperatures. While uncommon, it can be extremely dangerous, particularly to pregnant women and the elderly.
In many cases, listeria can be present in natural products without causing any harm. It can be difficult to diagnose as symptoms present at different times. Victims typically show flu-like symptoms including a fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhoea.
“Meals on Wheels holds the health and well-being of every customer as our number one priority and we have a stringent food safety program in place,” the company said in a statement. “Through this program, routine tests have identified Listeria monocytogenes in a sample of roast lamb and vegetables prepared at our Kent Town kitchen.
Meals on Wheels is now working closely with SA Health, but the source of the food safety risk is yet to be identified.
“When correctly heated and served, these meals in question pose minimal risk,” the statement continued. “Some of the affected meals were supplied as frozen meals, which have safe thawing and heating instructions on the meal lid and if heated correctly also pose low risk.
“However, Meals on Wheels is taking the step of recalling all affected frozen meals currently with customers in South Australia that may pose a risk if not heated correctly after thawing.”
Hot ready-to-eat meals have not been affected, but the company said the matter is of “deep concern”. Customers are currently being contacted and are being advised not to eat any frozen meals they currently have in their fridges or freezers. Volunteers and staff are also in the process of making personal contact to ensure everyone is notified and that the recall is carried out “with the utmost urgency”.
“At time of writing, we have received no reports of illness connected to consumption of these meals,” Julie Bonnici, Acting Chief Executive Officer for Meals on Wheels SA said. “However, we are providing information about listeriosis to customers who may have received a potentially contaminated meal and are advising any customer to seek prompt medical attention if they develop any symptoms.”
The news follows the tragic death of an elderly woman who died in Victoria last month after consuming food from a Melbourne catering facility that supplies Meals on Wheels, private hospitals and aged care facilities around the city.
I Cook Foods was shut down by Victorian health authorities in February after positive samples of the listeria bacteria were found on multiple food samples following an investigation into the cause of the woman’s death.
The woman, who died in a private hospital on February 4, was diagnosed with listeriosis. No one else is believed to have been affected.