Health experts have issued a warning to consumers over frozen sweetcorn after nine people died from a rare disease.
The Food Standards Agency believes that frozen sweetcorn is behind the outbreak of listeriosis, a rare illness that can cause serious health risks, because it is not being thoroughly cooked.
Dr Kathie Grant from Public Health England said: ‘Most people won’t have any symptoms of the infection or will only experience mild symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, which usually pass within a few days without the need for treatment.
‘More serious infection can develop in those with weakened immune systems or in vulnerable groups including babies, the elderly or pregnant women.
‘The best way to prevent listeriosis is to practise good food hygiene.’
She added: ‘Along with the FSA, FSS (Food Standards Scotland) and HPS (Health Protection Scotland), we are reminding people that most frozen vegetables, including sweetcorn, need to be cooked before eating.
‘This includes if adding them to salads, smoothies or dips.’
There have been 11 cases so far in the UK of people that have been affected by listeriosis dating back to 2015, with dozens more in four other countries across Europe.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which also warned about eating uncooked frozen products including spinach and green beans, said nine of those cases resulted in death.
Admitting the extent of the outbreak had initially been underestimated as more cases are reported, the European Food Safety Authority said: ‘It is strongly recommended that the processing plant concerned is completely cleaned and disinfected.
‘Which involves dismantling and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting all the plant equipment, as well as any additional surfaces that may represent a point of contamination.”
A freezing plant in Hungary is thought to be the source of contamination, with two of the 11 UK cases showing patients consumed the same brand of frozen corn from the same UK supermarket known to be supplied by Hungary.