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Contaminated sausages 'kill 12 people' in Denmark listeria outbreak

Authorities traced bacteria back to 'Rullepoelse' from factory near Copenhagen

A listeria outbreak caused by contaminated sausages is believed to have caused the deaths of at least 12 people in Denmark.

Officials traced the deadly bacteria back to a meat producer in Hedehusene, near Copenhagen.

Steen Ethelberg, from the national health agency Statens Serum Institut (SSI), said listeriosis, caused by the contamination, hit elderly people and those weakened by other illnesses.

Eight people known to be infected since the start of the outbreak have survived and the SSI is working to find any other cases.

The first person died on 13 September and the latest recorded death was on 9 August, with most deaths coming in the last three months, authorities said.

Mr Ethelberg called the outbreak “serious” but said it was believed to be under control after the authorities traced the source of the bacteria to rolled pork sausages called Rullepoelse.

The popular product is typically made of flattened pork belly stuffed with spices and herbs, which is then rolled up, sliced and served cold.

Danish sliced rolled meat speciality called Rullepoelse

By comparing cells from the infection in the 20 patients with listeria bacteria in several products made by Jørn A. Rullepølser, the SSI linked the outbreak to the company.

Its factory was immediately shut down after the discovery on Monday and 20 employees were sent home as sales stopped.

All products were recalled but it was not immediately clear whether any had been exported. Officials are checking whether any were sent to schools or restaurants.

The company has been investigated by food authorities before, Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet reported.

In 1999, a batch of cooked brisket was withdrawn after listeria was found, and in 2012 it was ordered to withdraw a batch of saveloys.

Christina Lowies Jensen, from Jørn A. Rullepølser, told Denmark’s TV2 station they were first contacted by the food administration on Monday.

"This is completely incomprehensible for us. It is a very complex case and we don't understand what went wrong," she said.

Listeria causes the infection listeriosis, which can be fatal in young children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems.

The bacteria can have particularly harmful effects on pregnant women, including miscarriage and stillbirths.

In most people, listeriosis is mild and causes symptoms including a high temperature, vomiting and diarrhoea that usually pass within three days without the need for treatment.

Additional reporting by Reuters