Problem children are sushi and salads

Gshards of glass in instant coffee, pieces of plastic in puffed rice and poisoned ecstasy champagne; sometimes also “salmonella” or listeria in farmer’s hand cheese: Visiting the website of the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety is not for the faint of heart. Therefore, it is better for over-anxious and hypochondriacs to avoid the federal lands portal. Because hazard warnings, product warnings, and company recall campaigns are posted there regularly and almost continuously. All this makes it clear that the layperson is mistaken if he thinks that he can correctly assess the dangers arising from individual products.

With sushi, for example, there is a much greater risk than with baked fish. Raw dairy products, salads, cucumbers and sprouts should also always be consumed with due caution. And if you’re in doubt, a baked meatball should be less dangerous than a pepper. The rule of thumb “Cooked is always better than raw” and the advice to rely on “your own senses”—that is, to see, taste, and smell—comes from someone who should know. Because head of department Florian Becker, together with four other colleagues, is responsible for food control in the southern Hessen district of Gross Gerau. And they were all under great pressure in mid-April, as was the entire department, which was then still part of the Veterinary Service. A fruit and vegetable company based in Gernsheim allegedly delivered Listeria-infected cucumbers during the Easter holidays. Bacteria are considered omnipresent, that is, ubiquitous in nature. If food is not produced properly, this can affect meat, fish and dairy products in particular; however, as is evident in this particular case, so are prepackaged salads.

control was not always possible

Among other things, raw food mixture contaminated with microbes found its way into hospital kitchens, causing four patients in Frankfurt and Offenbach to fall ill between October 2021 and January 2022; partially, however, probably only after a longer period of time. In at least one case, at least according to the indictment against the farm operator, the listeriosis infection may have resulted in the death of the person involved. That is why the prosecutor’s office in Darmstadt is conducting an investigation.

Keep cool: the food inspector measures the temperature of the products.

Keep cool: the food inspector measures the temperature of the products.

Image: Samira Schulz

The county, and most notably, County Administrator Thomas Will (SPD), immediately acknowledged the errors after the allegations became public. As a result of the corona pandemic and the additional burden on staff associated with it, the control that was actually necessary and obviously also necessary in 2020 and 2021 was not always possible to the usual extent. But the improvement is visible. A new colleague is expected on July 1. Another position will be announced now.

According to the administration, nearly 2,600 businesses are being inspected in the 14 municipalities of the county, home to more than 275,000 people, from the corner bakery to gas stations and kiosks, as well as diners and restaurants to restaurants, food wholesalers and last but not least lastly, the companies operating at the airport. All of them must be visited regularly by inspectors: at intervals of one month to three years, depending on how and what they produce or sell. Such an inspection can sometimes take only an hour, sometimes two days, Becker explains: “And then maybe with three or four employees.” In statistics, for example, the control of many trade stands at a folklore festival or exhibition is considered only “one operation”.


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