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South Africa traces deadly listeria to processed meat, issues recall

A screengrab of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi briefing the media on the listeriosis outbreak on 4 March 2018

RCL foods said it suspended all production of its polony brand at the Wolwehoek processing plant following the announcement by Motsoaledi.

On Sunday, Tiger Brands said on their Twitter handle that all Enterprise products would be removed.

Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said the source has been traced to a food facility in Polokwane.

"Customers who bought any Enterprise product (including Bokkie‚ Renown‚ Lifestyle‚ Mieliekip) or any Rainbow ready-to-eat products‚ eg polony or Russians‚ can return the product for a full refund".

The listeriosis outbreak has claimed the lives of 180 people while 948 laboratory-confirmed cases had been reported to the NICD since past year.

"We are removing products that may be linked to the listeriosis outbreak from our stores".

Motsoaledi said that people at risk such as pregnant women‚ those with HIV and those with weakened immune systems had to avoid all ready-to-eat products such as viennas‚ polony and frankfurters.

Following the lead from the tests performed on these children from Soweto and the food they had ingested, the EHPs (Environmental Health Practitioners), together with the NICD and DAFF representatives, accompanied by 3 technical advisors from the World Health Organisation in Geneva, visited a food-production site in Polokwane and conducted an extensive food product and environmental sampling.

Ninety three (85%) reported eating ready-to-eat (RTE) processed meat products, of which polony (a type of sausage) was the most common followed by viennas/sausages and then other "cold meats".

Motsoaledi said the National Consumer Commission has issued safety recall notices to the affected manufacturers and facilities, and the companies are now responsible for coming up with the recall plan.

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"They also need to let us know which other products were made in the factories and could have been contaminated by listeria bacteria".

From clinical isolates obtained from patients, nine sequence types of L. monocytogenes were isolated but most were sequence type 6 (ST6).

"This is because listeria on the exterior casing (packaging) can be transferred to other products it comes into contact with", he said. In addition, as a precaution, Pick n Pay branded chicken polony, manufactured by Rainbow, is also being withdrawn.

It advises people to wash hands and kitchen surfaces, keep raw and cooked food separate, to cook food thoroughly and store it in the fridge.

Consumers are advised to remove "any Enterprise ready-to-eat products from their fridges and place them in a plastic bag away from other products", Chief Executive Officer Tiger Brands Lawrence MacDougall said in a statement.

As of 02 March 2018, a total of laboratory-confirmed cases have risen to 948, still counting from January 2017.

"Such contamination of ready-to-eat processed meat products constitutes a health risk".

"Obviously, it's also the cost of the recall, which is not just the food but the transportation and whole supply chain of bringing it back", he said.

On Sunday the ministry of health announced a breakthrough in the listeriosis outbreak following several months of rigorous research. "In the meantime‚ we reaffirm our commitment to recall the identified Enterprise products as soon as possible".

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