German prosecutors investigate 25 deaths linked to contaminated meat

German prosecutors investigate 25 deaths linked to contaminated meat

It has been little over a month since the German meat producer Wilke Waldecker was forced to stop production after a suspected Listeria outbreak. Now, the scale of the scandal has expanded, with the public prosecutor's office currently investigating whether Wilke's sausage products can be directly linked to 25 deaths and 12 illnesses. 

Investigation into Wilke Waldecker

On October 2, the Veterinary Inspection Office of the Waldeck-Frankenberg district in North Hesse ordered the closure of Wilke Waldecker due to an outbreak of Listeria that was traced back to the company’s pizza salami and boiled sausage. An investigation by the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) confirmed a connection between the contaminated meat and the deaths of two elderly people in Hesse.

Now, at least 25 people have died and many more have been infected by the bacteria. An investigation has been launched to see if meat from Wilke is to blame. According to Andreas Thörne, a spokesperson from the prosecutor's office, they are currently trying to determine whether there is any connection between the Listeria outbreak and the deaths. The prosecutor’s office in Kassel is also investigating whether to bring criminal charges - specifically, negligent homicide - against the company’s managing director.

The death toll rises

The legal department of the RKI in Berlin has submitted an anonymised list of those infected by the disease so far. Some of the cases on record had the Listeria type, “Sigma 1”, which means they had direct connection with products from Wilke. In total, 37 people, with an average of age of 74, have been infected with Listeria bacteria. 25 of them sadly died. While Listeria can be easily treated in healthy adults by doctors, the bacteria can be fatal to people with weakened immune systems such as the elderly.

The RKI has so far only managed to link three of the deaths with the “Sigma 1” type. According to Thörne, prosecutors still have to determine whether the remaining deaths are the result of tainted meat from the Wilke factory. It has been reported that some of the deceased suffered from other illnesses, which may have been the sole factor in their deaths.

What started as a scandal confined to Germany has grown to a global product recall. Wilke products have apparently reached as many as 26 countries worldwide - including Japan, the USA and Russia, as well as EU member states.

Wilke’s reoperation is improbable

Wilke has now filed for bankruptcy; an emergency application to prevent the closure of the plant was filed but promptly rejected. Wilke can appeal this decision before the Hessian Administrative Court and, if a legal mistake has been made in closing Wilke, then the company could sue for damages.

The director of the Food, Beverages and Catering Union (NGG), Andreas Kampmann, considers a resumption of operation unlikely. He said that the only hope for the employees of Wilke is that the company finds an investor who can take it in a new direction.

William Nehra


William Nehra

William studied a masters in Classics at the University of Amsterdam. He is a big fan of Ancient History and football, particularly his beloved Watford FC.

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