People have warned against eating some frozen fruit and vegetables sold at stores like Dunnes, Tesco and Lidl due to illness concerns.

Irish consumers are warned against consuming certain frozen fruits and vegetables due to health concerns.

A new study from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland has found “a potential low-level disease risk for consumers who eat non-ready-to-eat frozen vegetables, fruit or herbs without prior cooking”.

The Food Safety Agency, in conjunction with Safefood Ireland, recommends that all non-ready-to-eat frozen vegetables, fruits and herbs be cooked prior to consumption and according to label directions.

READ MORE:Irish shoppers urged to throw away sweets and other products recalled from Dunnes Stores, Tesco and Lidl

If these products are consumed uncooked by people who are immunocompromised, pregnant, elderly or young children, there is a risk of serious illness, the FSAI said.

It comes after a microbiological study tested nearly 1,000 samples of frozen vegetables, fruits and herbs for the presence of Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella, Listeria spp. and E. coli.

Listeria monocytogenes was found in 27 of the samples tested (3%), most of which were non-ready-to-eat frozen vegetables.

Symptoms of Listeria monocytogenes infection may include mild flu-like symptoms or gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

The FSAI and Safefood note that while the numbers for this bacterium were low, it is a potential health risk to people who may eat these frozen, non-ready-to-eat foods on a regular basis.

It also poses a threat if consumer preparation and handling practices allow Listeria monocytogenes, if present, to grow to levels high enough to cause listeriosis.

The consumer research part of the study surveyed 815 people across the island of Ireland and found that 80% said they regularly eat frozen vegetables, 40% eat frozen fruit and 13% eat frozen herbs.

While the majority (68%) said they would cook the produce before eating it, others (32%) said they regularly eat one or more types of frozen vegetables, fruits, or herbs without cooking them.

Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and mixed berries were the frozen fruits most likely to be eaten raw in a dessert or smoothie.

A smaller number of consumers said they would regularly eat non-ready-to-eat raw frozen vegetables, such as sweet corn, carrots, peas, bell peppers and spinach in a salad or as a side dish.

Stock image of a woman shopping in a supermarket

Dr. Pamela Byrne, Executive Director of FSAI, emphasized the importance of correct labeling and that caterers and foodservice companies must ensure that they follow manufacturers’ instructions when preparing food for their customers.

“It is vital that food manufacturers follow best practice guidelines and ensure that frozen products that are not ready-to-eat are clearly labeled as such, with clear cooking instructions,” he said.

“They should also make sure there are no serving suggestions on the packaging that might suggest items can be eaten thawed without first cooking them, whether they are frozen vegetables, fruits or herbs.

“Caterers and foodservice businesses should check food labels and cook frozen items, if instructed, to ensure the food they serve to their customers is safe to eat.”

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