Following hard on the heels of the worst food scandal to hit SA in living memory, retail group Woolworths has recalled its Frozen Savoury Rice Mix as part of a worldwide product recall issued by the Hungarian Food Safety Agency.

According to the retailer, the rice mix contains sweetcorn sourced from the Greenyard Factory in Hungary, which has been implicated as the potential source of a listeria outbreak in Europe.

Woolworths said that while random tests on the product had found no evidence of listeria, the move was a precautionary measure and had been taken on global instruction. "Food safety is of critical importance to Woolworths and we take all issues regarding the production of our food extremely seriously," said the retailer.

Similar recalls are now under way in Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

According to the European Food Safety Authority, frozen sweetcorn and "possibly other frozen vegetables" were the "likely source" of a listeria outbreak that has hit five countries — Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the UK — since 2015.

While cooking destroys the listeria bacteria, Woolworths’s caution is unsurprising after a devastating outbreak of listeriosis in SA in 2017 claimed 191 lives.

The outbreak was traced to Tiger Brands’s Enterprise meat factory in Polokwane earlier in 2018 and is now the subject of a class action lawsuit launched by Richard Spoor Attorneys.

Tiger Brands was forced to shut its Enterprise facilities in Polokwane and closed two others in Pretoria and Germiston, costing the fast-moving consumer goods group R365m in its interim results to the end of March.

Woolworths said that customers who had bought the product should return it to their local store for a full refund.

The Woolworths share price closed 1.44% lower at R54.65 on Tuesday.

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