The government is urging South Africans to either avoid processed foods or cook it at a high temperature of 70°C due to the listeriosis outbreak, which has already claimed many lives.
The National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) said in a statement that the recent outbreak of the disease has claimed 172 lives and is caused by the listeria bacterium which contaminates a large number of foods including fresh produce (fruit and vegetables), dairy and meat products.
According to MedicineNet, symptoms of the disease aren’t always present in the infected. However, those who do experience the symptoms should see occurrences of nausea, fever, diarrhoea and muscle aches.
The NICD said they are optimistic that the source of this outbreak will be found, and urged people not to panic unnecessarily.
People who are at high risk of developing listeriosis include:
- Pregnant women;
- Adults aged over 65 years; and
- People with weakened immune systems such as those living with HIV/AIDS, cancer, kidney or liver disease, diabetes, or persons on medication that weakens the immune system
The above group of people is advised to avoid foods that have more commonly been linked to outbreaks of listeriosis. These include processed, ready-to-eat meat products, soft cheeses, and unpasteurised milk and dairy products. Processed, ready-to-eat meat products include viennas, polonies, russians, ham, other ‘cold’ meats, sausages, various corned meats, salami, pepperoni and similar products typically found in the processed meat sections of food retailers and butcheries. Such products must be avoided, or thoroughly cooked in boiling water or heated at high temperatures of 70°C or higher before eating.
World Health Organization’s (WHO) 5 Keys to Safer Food:
- Wash hands and surfaces before, and regularly during food preparation.
- Separate raw and cooked food, and don’t mix utensils and surfaces when preparing food.
- Cook food thoroughly – all bacteria are killed above 70o
- Keep food at safe temperatures – either simmering hot, or in the fridge.
- Use safe water and safe ingredients to prepare food.