Albert Heijn late with listeria recall of possibly tainted meat

On Friday Albert Heijn removed halal meat products from listeria-contaminated supplier Offerman from its shelves. But unlike Jumbo and Aldi, Albert Heijn made no public announcement to recall products already purchased by customers, NOS reports.

"Sloppy", a spokesperson for Albert Heijn said to NOS on Sunday, after the broadcaster alerted them to this fact. "But that responsibility lies with the supplier". The supermarket chain has since posted a recall on its website.

The Dutch food and consumer product safety authority NVWA confirms that it is legally the supplier's responsibility to report potentially dangerous products to the public. "But a supermarket is of course responsible for informing customers, although that is not mandatory", a spokesperson said to the broadcaster.

The recall concerns dozens of pre-packaged meat products produced at Offerman's Aalsmeer location. These products were sold by Jumbo, Aldi, Sligro, Versunie, Bidfood and Albert Heijn. The full list of potentially contaminated products sold at Albert Heijn can be found here. The lists for Jumbo and Aldi are in the links above. 

On Sunday, Albert Heijn and Aldi stores in Belgium also recalled products connected to Offerman. More Belgian supermarkets may follow suit, a spokesperson for Belgian foot watchdog FAVV said to NOS. The NVWA is currently tracing where all the potentially dangerous Offerman products ended up. "That investigation is still in full swing, but that is more complicated than you may think", a NVWA spokesperson said to the broadcaster.

According to public health service RIVM, a total of 20 people in the Netherlands became sick from listeria infections over the past two years that have now been linked to Offerman. Of these patients, three died and one woman had a miscarriage. 

Listeria bacteria can occur on food products, especially raw food an products that had been left in the fridge for an extended period. The chance of a listeria infection is small and healthy people will only get mild flu-like symptoms. But the bacteria can be dangerous to young children, the elderly and people with a weakened immune system. In these vulnerable groups, listeria can cause food poisoning. It is also particularly dangerous to pregnant women, who can suffer a miscarriage or premature birth due to the bacteria.