NSW chicken business fined for listeria-contamination

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 16th November 2011

New South Wales-based company Australia Poultry and Food Wholesalers has been fined A$236,000 plus legal costs for supplying pre-cooked chicken that was found to contain Listeria monocytogenes.

The chicken was used in wraps that were supplied for inflight meals on the Virgin Blue airline. Listeria monocytogenes is dangerous for pregnant women, newborns, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems.

Downing Centre Local Court, in Sydney, found that between December 2008 and June 2009, a food-borne illness outbreak resulted in 29 confirmed cases of listeriosis found in the airline’s passengers as a result of consuming the chicken supplied by Australia Poultry and Food Wholesalers, which trades under GMI Food Wholesalers Pty Ltd.

GMI Food Wholesalers Pty Ltd and its directors pleaded guilty to a total of 26 charges under the NSW Food Act 2003. The charges relate to a range of offences concerning the premises, production, packaging and sale of multi cut chicken breast.

New South Wales Food Authority CEO Alan Coutts said, “The bacterial ‘DNA fingerprint’ of the strain of Listeria monocytogenes found in the chicken was linked specifically to the laboratory confirmed cases identified. This was the first time that this type of bacterial DNA evidence was used in an Australian case of this kind.

Listeria monocytogenes is a type of bacteria that can be found in some foods which can cause a dangerous infection called listeriosis. While eating foods that contain Listeria monocytogenes rarely causes illness in most healthy adults, it can be serious in more vulnerable people.

Mr Coutts said the NSW Food Authority was firm on its position that companies who breach the food safety requirements and risk public health be subject to enforcement, including prosecution, because it tarnishes the reputation of the vast majority of food businesses that are complying with requirements.

He said, “The Authority is diligent in its investigation and enforcement to ensure food products are safe and that consumers are protected. NSW consumers have every right to expect that the food they buy is safe and that companies who have sold food that has made people ill are prosecuted.”