Processed food manufacturers Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken Limited (RCL) have been issued with safety recall notices following the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa. This follows a media briefing by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Sunday 4 March.
The Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane in Limpopo has been identified as the source of the current listeriosis outbreak. The total number of laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases had risen to 948 since January 2017. Of the 948, a total of 659 patients had been traced and 180 of them had died – a 27 per cent fatality rate, the African News Agency/ANA reports.
‘In our constant search for the source of the outbreak and the treatment of people who are affected, a team from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) has interviewed 109 ill people to obtain details about foods they had eaten in the month before falling ill. Ninety-three (85 per cent) reported eating ready to eat (RTE) processed meat products, of which polony was the most common, followed by viennas/sausages, and then other ‘cold meats,’ Motsoaledi notes.
Following leads, the NICD and agriculture, forestry, and fisheries department (DAFF) representatives, accompanied by three technical advisors from the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Geneva, visited a food-production site in Polokwane and conducted an extensive food product and environmental sampling.
‘Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from over 30 per cent of the environmental samples collected from this site, which happens to be the Enterprise factory in Polokwane. To conclude the investigation, whole genome sequencing analysis was performed from this Enterprise factory and the results became available late on Saturday 3 March. The outbreak strain, ST6, was confirmed in at least 16 environmental samples collected from this Enterprise facility.
‘The source of the present outbreak can be confirmed to be the Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane. Preliminary results show several ready to eat processed meat products from the Enterprise facility located in Germiston contain L. monocytogenes, but the sequence type is not yet known,’ Motsoaledi explains.
‘Investigation of the RCL Wolwehoek production facility is also underway. Polony products have tested positive for L. monocytogenes, but the sequence types of the isolates are not ST6. 10 per cent of environmental samples collected by EHPs at this facility have tested positive for L. monocytogenes. The sequence types of these isolates are not known.
The following course of action has been decided upon:
- The National Consumer Commission (NCC) had in terms of section 60(2) of the Consumer Protection Act issued the manufacturers concerned with safety recall notices;
- Compliance notices will be issued to facilities in terms of the National Health Act;
- In terms of registration for exports by the DAFF, the respective processing or manufacturing establishments, namely RCL Foods with an export registration number ZA32 and Enterprise Foods with an export registration number ZA33, had been suspended until further notice
- Members of the public are advised to avoid all processed meat products sold as ready to eat.
While it was known that polony was implicated, there was a risk of cross-contamination of other ready to eat processed meat products, either at production, distribution or retail.