Food from a bologna-making factory in the South African city of Polokwane in northern Limpopo Province is the source of the deadly listeriosis outbreak in the country which has so far killed 180 people and affected 915 others, a senior official said on Sunday.“The source of the present outbreak can be confirmed to be the Enterprise factory’s food production facility in Polokwane,” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Sunday.
Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs), together with the National Institute of Communicable Diseases and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have since visited the food production site in Polokwane.
Results from the factory became available at Saturday 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 bologna 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,” he said.
Processed meat products such as bologna, 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 in Gauteng Province 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 the 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,” he said.
With this in mind, the health ministry has issued a recall of these cold meat products from Enterprise and RCL factories.
“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,” Motsoaledi said.
Compliance notices will also be issued to facilities in terms of the National Health Act. The 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 meat.