The Court of Justice of the European Union provided interpretation of the rules as part of Estonia’s complex domestic case involving Listeria and fish.
European Court of Justice ruled on zero tolerance restrictions on Listeria
MV Wool and Estonian food establishments participated in national proceedings before the Administrative Court of Tallinn, which
Request for EU assistance between MV Wool (fish product manufacturer) and the Estonian Agriculture and Food Council (PTA) on two decisions by the authorities
2019 In August, Estonian authorities took samples from retail outlets of some salmon and trout products produced by MV Wool. After the detection of Listeria monocytogenes, Estonian officials ordered the company to suspend production, recall the entire batch and notify consumers.
In October, MV wool disinfected two operating plants after the discovery of Listeria monocytogenes in some of its products. However, Listeria continues to be detected in some products at these sites. In November, Estonian authorities ordered MV Wool to suspend operations at the factories until there was evidence the contamination had been eliminated.
Rules of Interpretation
MV Wool filed a lawsuit before the Administrative Court of Tallinn, The decision was requested to be reversed, claiming that the Estonian authorities did not have the authority to apply the 25 g retail sample limit requiring the absence of Listeria monocytogenes.
The company believes that this restriction does not apply to products that are already on the market. For these products, the shelf life is limited to 100 colony forming units per gram (CFU/g). According to MV Wool, L. monocytogenes has never been found above these levels in the company’s products.
Estonian authorities stated that since the company has not demonstrated that its products will not contain more than 100 CFU/g of Listeria monocytogenes throughout their shelf life, regardless of whether they are manufactured in Whether it is under the control of the dealer or has been placed on the market, the zero tolerance limit applies.
Cold-smoked trout and salmon produced in Estonia by M. V Wool has been linked to an outbreak of Listeria monocytogenes affecting 22 people in five countries from 2014 to 2019. 5 people died.
The Tallinn Administrative Court submitted a preliminary ruling to the court to decide which interpretation is correct, as it will affect the legality of the decisions made by the authorities around the company’s operations in August and November.
The first limit of 100 CFU/g applies to products placed on the market within the shelf life, and the manufacturer can demonstrate that this level will not be exceeded to the satisfaction of the relevant authorities.
The zero tolerance section applies before the food leaves the control of the food establishment and the operator cannot demonstrate that the product will not exceed 100 CFU/g throughout the shelf life.
The rules do not cover situations where the product is already on the market and the manufacturer cannot demonstrate that it will not exceed 100 CFU/g during the shelf life.
The Court of Justice of the European Union has ruled that if the company fails to meet the authorities’ requirements that the food will not exceed the limit of 100 CFU/g for Listeria monocytogenes throughout the shelf life, the zero tolerance limit Values do not apply to items placed on the market for their entire shelf life.
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