The shares of South Africa’s biggest consumer food producer, Tiger Brands fell today after a deadly bacterium outbreak has been traced to its Enterprise meat factory in Polokwane South Africa. The deadly Listeria was linked to cold meat products known as Polony produced by the company.
The Health Minister, Aaron Motosaledi who announced this finding said that there is a further ongoing inquiry into the second facility that is owned by the Tiger brands, RCL foods. He also announced the recall of all Polony products made by both companies.
“ The food-safety programme at the Enterprise Polokwane factory is insufficient for the type of risk posed by the type of food they produce. They do a little testing but it is not sufficient,” Dr. Juno Thomas, head of the Centre for Enteric Diseases at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, reportedly told Businessday South Africa.
However, Tiger Brands spokeswoman, Nevashnee Naicker denied the claims that safety measure were inadequate, she stated that “stringent monitoring and testing protocols, including for the detection and management of pathogens, viruses, and bacteria, including listeria were in place.”
Naivashni Naicker also confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that it has shut down its plants in both Polokwane and Germiston. The company is conducting its own tests to verify the presence of the outbreak strain at its plants and expects results Monday.
What you need to know about Listeria outbreak in South Africa
Listeria is a bacterium that is naturally found in the environment. It commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the faeces of some animals.
It can contaminate a wide variety of food types which includes meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurized and pasteurized), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables, and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products.
Uncooked processed meat has frequently been linked to listeria outbreaks around the world. It thrives in fridges and is killed by cooking.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the current Listeriosis outbreak is the largest ever in South Africa.
About 180 people have died and over 900 people have received medical care after being infected.
It takes up to 30 days before the symptoms of Listeriosis can manifest. The symptoms include Muscle aches, Fever, runny tummy.
People that are prone to the infection include people with impaired immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women, and infants.
Shops that sell polony and other processed meat products have been asked to clean their fridges with diluted bleach.