Listeriosis Outbreak Sources Identified : Enterprise Polony Fingered by Health Minister

Enterprise polony fingered as Listeriosis culprit

Polony from the Enterprise factory in Polokwane, Limpopo, has been fingered as the culprit behind the Listeriosis outbreak in the country.

“The source of the present outbreak can be confirmed to be the Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane,” said Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on Sunday.

Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs), together with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), and officials from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) had visited the food production site in Polokwane.

Results from this factory became available at midnight, prompting the Health Minister to hold an urgent media briefing in which he informed the public to avoid all processed meat products immediately.

“While we know that polony is definitely implicated, there is a risk of cross-contamination of other ready-to-eat processed meat products, either at production, distribution or retail. We advise members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat,” said the Minister.

Processed meat products such as polony, viennas, russians, frankfurters, sausages and cold meat products were listed as no go zones by the Minister.

The cause of the outbreak strain ST6 was confirmed in 16 environmental samples collected from the Enterprise facility.

In addition to the Polokwane facility, another Enterprise facility located in Germiston, Gauteng, tested positive for Listeria but it is yet to be confirmed if it is the same ST6 strain.

While another facility, known as the Rainbow Chicken Limited (RCL), tested positive for Listeria, samples from this facility are not same strain that is causing the outbreak.

“Such contamination of ready-to-eat processed meat products constitutes a health risk. Also, over 10% of environmental samples collected by the EHPs at this facility have tested positive for L. monocytogenes,” said the Minister.

With this in mind, the Health Department issued a recall of these cold meat products for Enterprise and RCL.

“The National Consumer Commission has, in terms of Section 60(2) of the Consumer Protection Act, this morning issued manufacturers concerned with safety recall notices,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

Compliance notices will also be issued to facilities in terms of the National Health Act.

The Health Minister reiterated his call for high risk people such as pregnant women, very young infants, elderly persons and anyone with a weakened immune system due to HIV and cancer to completely avoid all processed meats.

Food safety rules

Members of the public have been reminded that now is not the time to slack on their food safety precautions but rather a time to strengthen those habits.

“The recall of these products does not mean that members of the public must now relax and stop following food safety rules,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

The food safety rules include:

Wash your hands before handling food or when coming back from the bathroom.
Cook food thoroughly.
Separate raw food from cooked food.
Store food at an appropriate temperature.
Wash uncooked food with clean running water.
Only use pasteurized or boiled milk products.

World Health Organisation (WHO) country representative, Rufaro Chitaro confirmed that the Australian Listeriosis outbreak was caused by a different strain from the South African one.

“Australia has since last month seen 15 cases of Listeriosis, resulting in three fatalities caused by what is known as a rock melon. There is no evidence that these melons are exported to South Africa. The Australian strain is caused by ST240,” said Chitaro.

Gauteng is still leading the pack with the number of Listeriosis cases at 60%, followed by 13% in the Western Cape and 7% in KwaZulu-Natal and others sporadically spread out across the country.

NICD Head Juno Thomas said the public can use bleach to disinfect and thoroughly clean their fridges to avoid contamination.

Members of the public can visit the National Health Laboratory Services and Health Department websites on how to effectively clean their homes.

Dti recalls Enterprise food products

The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has issued a recall of all products from the Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken Limited companies, which have been found to have traces of Listeria.

“Given the findings of Listeria, it is clear that there has been a drop in the quality controls at these facilities. They have, as of this morning, been issued with safety recall notices according to Section 60(2) of the Consumer Protection Act,” said dti Director General Lionel October.

Results which came in at midnight confirmed that polony from the Enterprise facility was the cause of the current Listeriosis outbreak, prompting Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi to call an urgent press briefing.

While RCL Foods tested positive for Listeria, its samples did not test positive for the strain ST6, which is the cause of the outbreak. Nonetheless, it will also be pulled from the shelves as it poses a health risk.

“Such contamination of ready-to-eat processed meat products constitutes a health risk. Also, over 10% of environmental samples collected by the EHPs at this facility have tested positive for L. monocytogenes,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

The safety recall notices require that an investigation be conducted and a recall programme be carried out on any terms required by the National Consumer Commission (NCC).

“The safety recall will affect the manufacturers’ entire distribution networks, both domestic and international,” said the Health Minister.

In addition to the recall, RCL Foods, which exports some of its products, has been slapped with a suspension of its export registration number until further notice.

While the Minister confirmed that polony was the definite culprit, he called on the public to avoid all processed meat products.

“While we know that polony is definitely implicated, there is a risk of cross-contamination of other ready-to-eat processed meat products, either at production, distribution or retail. We advise members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat,” said Minister Motsoaledi.

NCC Deputy Commissioner Thezi Mabuza said the Commission will prepare a recall strategy in conjunction with the manufacturers and make further announcements to the public in due course.

– SAnews.gov.za