South Africa blames food firms for world's worst listeria outbreak

Posted March 06, 2018

Malawi's Competition and Fair Trading Commission asked wholesalers and retailers to withdraw South Africa meat products from shelves.

Two of South Africa's largest supermarket chains, Pick n Pay and Woolworths, have wasted no time in removing any products associated with the outbreak. A total of 180 people have died as a result of eating these products.

Customers were notified to return any Enterprise or Rainbow Chicken products bought at Food Lover's Market or Freshstop stores for a full refund, spokesperson Jean Harkett said in a statement on Tuesday.

He warned that products such as viennas, russians, frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats which are not typically cooked, could also be affected due to the risk of cross-contamination. But he said everyone had a role to play - including agriculture, trade and industry and local municipalities - as he blamed a long food chain and a lack of stringent controls.

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It was found that these children had consumed polony at school, which was allegedly traced back to the Enterprise Foods facility in Polokwane.

The Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi, announced on Sunday that the recent listeriosis outbreak which had resulted in 176 deaths across South Africa since January 2017, had been traced to meat processor Enterprise's Polokwane facility.

The company was also recalling all its polony brands.

MacDougall did confirm that a low level detection of the virus was found in Tiger Brands' products in February, which then prompted the decision to take "immediate precautionary measures" to reduce spreading of the virus. Both those firms said their products were safe. The fact that the source could not be found hurt all food suppliers in South Africa and they were all advised to test their products.

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The company noted that all RCL Foods facilities are FSSC (Food Safety System Certification) 22000 or ISO 22000 compliant.

Motsoaledi said on Sunday that polony was a definite source of the disease. Polony products have tested positive for Listeria, but the sequence types of the isolates are not ST6.

A key concern is that this outbreak started in a manufacturing facility owned by a large listed company, Tiger Brands (Pty) Ltd which has a good record of food manufacturing safety to date.

RCL Foods manufactures a broad line of private label food products.

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