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Lidl pays €1.5m for deadly cheese delay

Published: 16 Jan 2013 10:36 GMT+01:00

Lidl did not act fast enough in 2009 when the Listeria bacteria were discovered in its Harz cheese, a product of Austrian company Prolactal, said Heilbronn Administrative Court on Tuesday.

The state prosecutor said four customers fell ill with listeriosis after eating the cheese, one of whom later died as a result of the food poisoning.

Listeria is a bacterium - usually eliminated in the pasteurization process - which causes serious infections in humans and can be life-threatening for people suffering from other illnesses, pregnant mothers or new born children.

On hearing that the bacteria had been found in the product, Lidl said it had asked Prolactal for an inspection - and received negative test results. The supermarket removed the cheese from its shelves but failed to recall the product until Austrian authorities issued a warning in late January 2010.

The court ruled that Lidl should have not only withdrawn the product earlier - by the end of 2009 at the latest - but also should have issued an immediate recall, and fined the supermarket €1.5 million for failing to meet its legal obligations.

Four company employees were also singled out to pay fines of between €27,000 and €58,500. However, the court found that Lidl did not bear any legal or criminal responsibility for the illnesses or death caused by the food poisoning.

A Lidl spokesman said the company had at all times met its inspection obligations, but admitted that the reaction had been too slow and accepted Tuesday's court ruling.

"Lidl Germany accepts the court's decision and regrets that the results of the routine inspections carried out three years ago on the product were not correctly interpreted," said a spokesman.

The ruling came on the same day as Irish authorities said they had found horse meat in burgers sold in several supermarkets in Ireland and Britain - including German discount supermarkets Lidl and Aldi.

DPA/The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

14:47 January 16, 2013 by whiteriver
from http://www.kantarretail.com/News/NewsDisplay.html?id=525846:

"According to LZ.net, Schwarz Group-owned discounter Lidl's profits rose 37% to EUR 1.04 billion in the financial year 2011/12. "

Which means that the 1.5m eur fine makes no difference.
16:33 January 16, 2013 by raandy
This type of corporate misconduct is unconscionable, leaving products on the shelf than were known to cause serious illness or death. In my opinion someone should be doing jail time because of it. I will never shop there again.
17:25 January 16, 2013 by Dalmation
That is me finished with them also. Their fruit and veg is generally half rotten anyway. False economy buying from them as one ends up throwing half it out.
20:09 January 16, 2013 by coffeelover
I have a dog whom I let smell all meat, cheese, even eggs, before I cook. He will turn away if it does not smell ok to him. He is richly rewarded for preventing me from getting sick. I stumbled on his "talent" by accident a few years ago, when I read about a meat recall, checked my stock and found matching numbers, put the meat on table prior to returning, then watched him sniff it, sneeze, and run out of kitchen. Man's best friend in so many ways.
21:20 January 16, 2013 by puisoh
@ coffeelover ....I hope your dog will out-live you then.
07:57 January 17, 2013 by Bingham8
The good thing about Lidl is that the customer can select his own fruit & veg himself. The discerning customer is thus free to select the freshest produce in the box ... and leave the rotten apples for @Dalmation to buy.
09:35 January 17, 2013 by Dalmation
Good luck with that @ Bingham8. Generally the fruit and veg is just about ready to go rotten and it is not until the day after you buy it you realise it. Paying extra and another supermarket or fruit and veg store most often means getting fruit and veg that lasts longer.
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