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Stomach bug epidemic traced to Kesko rucola

Nearly 200 people have come down with a stomach bug after eating food provided by an Espoo catering firm. Some of the patients were diagnosed with E.Coli infections traced to rocket salad or rucola sold to industrial kitchens by the Kesko retail group. The company said that it was conducting rigorous testing of the product.

Laboratoriotyöntekijä vertailee keltavihreitä EHEC-bakteeripesäkkäitä petrimaljoissa.
Laboratoriotyöntekijä vertailee EHEC-bakteeripesäkkäitä petrimaljoissa. Image: Matthias Bein / EPA

The source of a stomach bug epidemic that has affected close to 200 people in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa and Kauniainen who attended functions two weekends ago was found to be an Espoo-based catering company, said the National Institute for Health and Welfare, THL.

Daily Helsingin Sanomat first reported the wave of illnesses on Thursday and identified the firm as Kupli Catering.

According to the THL, persons who ate food provided by the caterer experienced symptoms about 24 hours after their meals. Symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pains and headache. Stool samples taken from more than 80 the affected persons confirmed the presence of E.Coli bacteria, also known as EHEC.

The majority of people who came down with the stomach bug came from Helsinki, some 189. Officials said that they have already contacted patients who belong to high-risk groups, such as children under the age of five, elderly persons, pregnant women and persons who work in the food industry.

Kesko sold product to industrial kitchens

The source of the epidemic has been traced to rucola or rocket salad sold in bulk by major retailer Kesko. Kesko’s corporate responsibility vice president Matti Kalervo told Yle that the rucola in question was grown in Denmark and packaged in Sweden. It has only been part of wholesale lots sold to industrial customers.

"This product is exclusively for industrial kitchens," he noted.

The affected rucola came in a batch of 189 kilograms, enough to feed several hundred customers, Kalervo added.

"We haven’t been contacted by anyone else. Apparently and hopefully, this spoiled lot involved only a small part [of the batch], just a few bags," he remarked.

The affected product had a use-by date of August 24. Kalervo said that Kesko has embarked on “intense screening” of new supplier – in other words it is performing microbiological tests on the product.

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