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News - Date: 12 March 2018
Written by: Tracy Ngobeni / Viewed: 4334
The announcement by the Department of Health (DoH) on Sunday that the source of the nationwide listeriosis outbreak had been traced to the Enterprise facility in Polokwane and Rainbow Chicken Ltd in the Free State has sparked a mass clearing of products related to the brand names in supermarkets.
Such was also the case in Louis Trichardt. With Sunday being a popular shopping day, shoppers at the local Checkers watched in amazement as staff hastily cleared shelves of all products bearing the two brand names. Soutpansberg Spar and other local supermarkets followed suit.
In all cases, shoppers were also allowed to return products bearing the two brand names for a full refund, even if they were no longer in possession of a receipt.
At Soutpansberg Spar, all Enterprise- and Rainbow Chicken-related products were sealed in airtight bags. The brands included Bokkie, Renown, Mieliekip and Lifestyle, as well as Rainbow polony products. Placing a high priority on public safety, they even went so far as to remove all other products on their shelves that had come into close contact with the mentioned brands, and even took the shelves where the products were kept apart to disinfect them. Spar Soutpansberg was, however, quick to point out that Spar’s own range of processed meats was not affected. “NB: SPAR brand processed meat products are not affected as they are not manufactured by Enterprise or Rainbow and are completely safe,” reads an in-store notice.
In his announcement on Sunday, Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi stated that the listeriosis outbreak in the country had, to date, claimed the lives of 180 people. “As of 2 March 2018, a total of laboratory-confirmed cases have risen to 948, still counting from January 2017. Of these 948, a total (of) 659 patients have been traced and 180 of them have unfortunately died. This constitutes 27% case fatality rate,” said Motsoaledi. He added that in their constant search for the source of the outbreak and the treatment of people who had been affected, a team from the NICD had interviewed 109 ill people to obtain details about foods they had eaten in the month before falling ill. “Ninety-three (85%) people 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’,” said Motsoaledi. Adding to this, the provincial spokesperson for the DoH, Mr Thabiso Teffo, confirmed that 47 cases of people with listeriosis in Limpopo had been reported to the department from January to March, both from private and state hospitals.
Regarding the Enterprise facility in Polokwane, Motsoaledi stated that it had been confirmed at midnight on Saturday evening that the Enterprise facility in Polokwane (part of the Tiger Brand group) had tested positive for the listeria monocytogenes outbreak strain. “…the present outbreak can be confirmed to be the Enterprise food-production facility in Polokwane,” Motsoaledi said. He added that an investigation was also underway into Rainbow Chicken Limited as some of their polony samples had also tested positive for listeria monocytogenes.
Motsoaledi warned that people with a weak immune system to stay away from the contaminated food products and ready-to-eat processed food. “Pregnant women are urged to stay away from contaminated and ready-to-eat food products because this will affect the unborn baby/foetus. Elderly people and people with a weakened immune system, e.g. HIV , cancer, chronic liver disease, transplants and diabetes are advised to avoid these infected products," said Motsoaledi.
Following Motsoaledi’s announcement, Limpopo Premier Mr Chupu Mathabatha pleaded with the public to comply with the announcement made by the minister on Sunday. “Government environmental practitioners are hard at work with the conduction of further tests and the Limpopo provincial government welcomes the announcement made by the minister," said Mathabatha.
In the meantime, Tiger Brands CEO Mr Lawrence MacDougall said that there was no direct link with the deaths and the products they produced." I can’t apologise for something that I'm not clear of yet … We have no evidence of a link," said MacDougall. On the other hand, the DoH advised members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat. “While we know that polony is implicated, there is a risk of cross-contamination of other ready-to-eat processed meat products, either at production, distribution or retail. This is because Listeria on the exterior casing (packaging) of polony can be transferred to other products it comes into contact with, including viennas, russians, frankfurters, other sausages, and other ‘cold meat’ products that are typically not cooked before eating,” said the DoH.
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Mr Ndingoho Mawela of Soutpansberg Spar had his work cut out for him, having to clean and disinfect all the shelves where the possibly contaminated processed meats products were kept.
Tracy Ngobeni is a 20-year-old intern who is doing her final year in journalism at Tshwane University of Technology. She was born and bred in Olifantshoek. She started her journalism career in 2017, after submitting her articles to the Record Noweto Newspaper in Pretoria. Her heart beats for print media because she believes that writing can heal reader's souls.