Today, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) announced that they had traced the source of the Listerosis outbreak to an Enterprise facility in Polokwane. The Western Cape recorded the second highest number of cases reported, with Gauteng recording the highest.
It has also been traced to another Enterprise facility in Germiston on the East Rand, and a Rainbow chicken facility in the Free State, but further tests were needed.
In a quick move to contain the virus, the National Consumer Commission issued safety recall notices to manufacturers and facilities, and the companies responsible for recalling the products.
Motsoaledi said in a press conference at the NCID offices in Johannesburg, “We can now conclude scientifically that the source of the present outbreak is the Enterprise Food production facility located in Polokwane.”
He said that polony was a definite source and other products such as Viennas, Russians, Frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats not typically cooked could also be affected by the virus due to cross contamination. He urged everyone who has these products in their fridge to get rid of them immediately and clean out their fridges.
Motsoaledi said statistics revealed that the outbreak claimed about 180 lives and 948 laboratory-confirmed cases had been reported to the NICD.
Several children suffered gastroenteritis in Soweto earlier in the week and tests concluded that it was listeriosis. On further investigation, the strain they were affected by, which was the same as the larger outbreak, was traced back to Enterprise’s Polokwane facility.
Retailers must clean their fridges, meat slicers, and either remove the ready-to-eat meat products or place them in plastic bags in separate fridges – ahead of the recall.
Listeriosis affects pregnant women, neonates, elderly people and anyone with weakened system, the minister urged people in this category “not to go near” these products.
In a response to the announcement, Tiger Brands spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said in a statement, “As a company that prioritises the health and safety of consumers above all else, we are committed to ensuring that all Enterprise products, as identified, will be recalled as part of the directive received. We are working very closely with the officials at present to conduct the process and will provide updates to the public on this matter.
She further added that the company proactively amplified its testing for listeria and can confirm that they had found a low detection of a strain of listeria in some products on 14 February but the presence of the ST6 strain (the outbreak strain) has not been confirmed by their tests.
“The company has furthermore sent its samples to an external laboratory to test for the strain itself and should receive the results tomorrow,” said Naicker.
Listeria is a bacterium commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the faeces of some animals. It can contaminate a wide variety of food types, including meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurised and pasteurised), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products.