Seven face charges in deadly Listeria outbreak in Spain

Seven people are set to stand trial as part of Spain’s largest ever Listeria outbreak, which occurred in 2019.

A judge in a court in Seville this week decided to continue proceedings against seven defendants for offences including alleged crimes against public health and injury to a fetus resulting in abortion. At the conclusion of an investigation into the outbreak, Pilar Ordóñez also considered that Seville Council could be held civilly liable, this means it would have to pay compensation if convicted.  

The outbreak from “La Mecha” brand chilled roasted pork produced by Magrudis affected almost 250 people. During the health alert between mid-August and mid-October 2019, four people died and there were six abortions.

Those investigated are José Antonio Marín Ponce, administrator of Magrudis; his wife, Encarnación Rodríguez Jiménez, responsible for production and the company’s self-control system; their children Sandro José and Mario Marín Rodríguez as well as a local veterinary inspector and two other people. Action against another four people has been stopped.

The council is accused of poor performance in its public service role. The inspector of the Magrudis facilities did not collect enough product samples, check surfaces, or samples of the interior environment to verify whether the factory met the necessary conditions despite being obliged to assess the potential risk and level of compliance, according to officials.

The Guardia Civil investigated the company as part of Operation Monocy with the help of Europol.

A judge’s assessment
The outbreak was reported by Spanish authorities to the World Health Organization, via the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) in late August 2019.

Expenses generated by two hospitals in response to the outbreak of listeriosis amounted to €800,000 ($833,000), said the authorities.

Expert reports as part of the proceedings highlighted bad practices carried out by the company and the “lack of consideration” of food safety.

“The spread of the outbreak was due to the lack of transparency of Magrudis, not communicating from the first minute the types of products made, the type of products distributed and the batches of each of them,” said the judge, based on expert findings.

Once the potentially harmful product was put on the market the risk could no longer be controlled and even if the defendants did not imagine the result of their actions, they knew there was the possibility of causing harm to the health of consumers, added the judge.

Facua, a consumer group which is representing 79 sick people, welcomed the progress in proceedings.

However, the association criticized Seville Council for not doing enough to prevent another Magrudis case by improving controls and adding to the number of inspectors.

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