LAWYERS representing Scottish victims of a potentially deadly bacteria have launched civil actions against a number of supermarkets.

Digby Brown Solicitors confirmed it was representing “several” people from across the Central Belt who have been diagnosed with listeriosis after being admitted to hospital.

It comes after 50 frozen food products were pulled from supermarket shelves over contamination fears amid a Europe-wide outbreak affecting five countries, including the UK.

Listeriosis is caused by the listeria monocytogenes bacteria, and has symptoms similar to flu. But it can be fatal for those with weakened immune systems, causing nine deaths since 2015.

Mark Gibson, a partner at Digby Brown who specialises in poisonings, fears even more cases are likely to emerge across the country.

He said: “This listeria outbreak cannot and should not be taken lightly – it has affected an entire continent, so much so that people have sadly died.

“Supermarkets may have recalled some products but the sheer scale of the issue and the delay in responding to it, means the number of victims can only be expected to increase.

“We are aware that many of those affected are currently receiving medical treatment and the full impact is not yet known.

“So far, several individuals from across the Central Belt have contacted us for legal assistance after it was confirmed to them by A&E doctors that they were suffering from listeriosis but due to privacy issues, and investigations being at an early stage, we cannot disclose any further details.

“If anyone thinks they or a loved one has been affected by contaminated foods then I urge you to see a medical professional as soon as possible as the symptoms could initially be mistaken for a severe episode of conditions such as flu or a gastric bug.”

Mr Gibson previously represented victims during the 2012 Legionnaires outbreak in Edinburgh, which killed four people.

Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Iceland, Lidl and Aldi are among the chains which have recalled items such as frozen corn, peas and spinach amid fears they contain the listeria bacteria. It is not yet known which supermarkets are facing legal action.

Health officials previously warned frozen sweetcorn is the likely cause of the outbreak affecting Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and the UK, with 47 cases reported so far.

The European Food Safety Authority said 11 of those were in the UK – including two victims who had died as a result of their illness.

In a statement, it said: “The same strains of L. monocytogenes have been detected in frozen vegetables produced by the same Hungarian company in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“This suggests that the strains have persisted in the processing plant despite the cleaning and disinfection procedures that were carried out.

"The available information confirms the contamination at the Hungarian plant. However, further investigations, including thorough sampling and testing, are needed to identify the exact points of environmental contamination at the Hungarian plant."

It recommended thoroughly cooking frozen vegetables before use to reduce the chance of illness.

Earlier this month, Greenyard Frozen UK Ltd took the “precautionary step” of recalling dozens of frozen vegetable produces amid fears they might also contain the bug.

The Food Standards Agency said notices would be displayed in all shops selling the affected products. Those who have already bought packets of the vegetables can seek a full refund.

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: "Retailers take food safety extremely seriously.

“Following discussions with suppliers some retailers have undertaken a voluntary recall of certain products on a precautionary basis."