The Lithuanian supermarket chain Maxima stopped selling meat due to suspected salmonella last Friday. The Food and Veterinary Service said on Monday the company had known about the problem for days and might have sold contaminated products to shoppers.
Maxima, one of the country's biggest chains, had known about unsafe products from its supplier Biovela on February 3, but only reported it to the authorities four days later, according to the service's deputy director Mantas Staškevičius.
“Measures had not been taken until February 7, or we were not informed about them,” he told a press conference.
Maxima earlier said that contaminated products were discovered during a regular check.
“Microbiological contamination was discovered during one of [regular] self-control tests in pork neck and ham from Biovela,” Ernesta Dapkienė, the director of the communication and corporate affairs department at Maxima, said in a statement on Saturday.
The company temporarily removed all fresh and marinated meat from the shelves, but resumed sales of products from other suppliers later on Friday.
“Meat supplies have already been resumed in our store chain,” Maxima said on Friday. “Since we don’t accept meat from Biovela whose produce we suspect, we have asked other suppliers to increase the volumes of their produce as much as possible.”
The State Food and Veterinary Service said on Monday that three shipments of about 20 tons of unsafe meat had been delivered to Maxima. All the unsafe products have been taken off the market.
“So far, we have not received any complaints from consumers or companies about salmonella infection,” Staškevičius said.
Maxima operates 247 supermarkets in Lithuania.
Maxima waited for test results
Maxima responded on Monday, saying that there was a delay in notifying the authorities because the company was waiting for test results.
According to Dapkienė, Maxima received results from its meat plant in Elektrėnai on February 3 and did not inform the Food and Veterinary Service, because the plant had already been closed the day before.
To confirm that meat was contaminated, the company was sent samples to laboratory for repeated testing and received the results on February 7.
“In view of repeated results that the meat was unsafe, we took stricter measures than those recommended by the Food and Veterinary Service,” Dapkienė said in a statement.
“On February 7, we immediately took out all fresh meat and carried out disinfection in our shops and meat plans due to cross-contamination.”