Page last updated at 13:32 GMT, Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Lidl warns Germans over suspect cheese

A Lidl store (file pic)
Lidl says the suspect cheese is no longer on sale

The German supermarket chain Lidl has issued a second warning to Germans not to eat Austrian cheese thought to be linked to deaths from food poisoning.

Lidl pulled the cheeses off its shelves on 23 January, warning customers. It says the expiry date was 16 February.

"Lidl asks all customers to totally avoid eating the suspect products," a warning on Lidl's German website says.

German researchers believe contaminated Reinhardshof cheese was to blame for six deaths from listeria last year.

The two recalled brands were produced by an Austrian firm - Prolactal GmbH, in Hartberg, Austria. But it was not sold by Lidl in Austria, the Lidl statement says.

A spokesman for Lidl UK, Matthew Nobbs, told the BBC that the Reinhardshof hard cheese and farmhouse cheese with mould "are not listed here - they have never been on sale in the UK".

Analysis by the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin suggested a link between the contaminated cheeses and the deaths of two Germans and four Austrians from listeria. Twelve others fell ill in the outbreak.

The tip-off came from an Austrian food safety worker who checked the victims' till receipts, the German news website Spiegel reports.

It is not yet clear how the cheese became contaminated.

Those most at risk from listeria are pregnant women, the elderly, young babies and people with weakened immune systems.

Initial symptoms include fever, a flu-like illness or diarrhoea.

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