The supermarket chain Maxima and its supplier Biovela are facing fines for bringing salmonella-contaminated meat to the market. Maxima says it did not notify shoppers because it was not required to.
Maxima, one of Lithuania's biggest supermarket chains, received laboratory results confirming microbiological contamination in one of the tested samples on February 3, but informed the service and took fresh meat off the market only on February 7, the State Food and Veterinary Service says.
Maxima says it did not immediately notify the Food and Veterinary Service about contaminated meat because it was waiting for test results.
Maxima, along its meat supplier Biovela, now face a fine of up to 24,000 euros for failing to notify the authorities on time, according to Mantas Staškevičius, deputy director of the service.
“We believe that both companies acted inappropriately. Both Biovela and Maxima failed to inform us,” he said on Thursday.
Not required to inform shoppers
Maxima spokeswoman Vilma Drulienė told the media that due to short shelf life, meat was often put on the market before test results were in.
Asked why the company did not inform shoppers who may have bought contaminated meat, Drulienė said it was not required to.
“Under the State Food and Veterinary Service rules, informing the clients is not required. We must destroy the remainder of the batch still on the market and disinfect all processing plants,” she said.
She added that thermally processed meat did not pose any health risks.
Drulienė conceded that Maxima should have informed the authorities about contaminated meat earlier.
“Accepting the responsibility, we will pay whatever fine we are given. In the future, we'll make sure that there's no reason to fine us,” she said.
Staškevičius, of the State Food and Veterinary Service, said Maxima's delay in informing about unsafe meat in its supermarkets was intolerable and called for tougher punishment.
“We will increase fines [...] in the future, and if companies fail to inform about unsafe food products, we will consider suspending their operation or even closing them down,” Staškevičius said.
Commenting on the likely source of the salmonella contamination, Staškevičius said it was probably a Biovela production facility. However, due to late notification, tracking the source is difficult.
Biovela said on Tuesday that potentially salmonella-contaminated meat was only delivered to Maxima and not to other retailers.
Maxima sold around 11 tons of potentially contaminated Biovela meat and its products before destroying around 160 tons of products from different suppliers. The company says the resulting loss stands at around 0.5 million euros.
It was the first time in Lithuania when all meat in one retail chain was destroyed.