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Listeria probes should continue

THE article “More listeriosis cases” (The Star, May 16)refers. The continuing listeriosis outbreak is a cause for concern.

The Minister of Health has told Parliament that the epidemic is under control, and his department seems satisfied with the fact that more than six people contract the disease every week. This is regarded as a victory, because it is now only a quarter of what it was previously. The death toll, according to the department, has risen to over 200.

It will keep rising because of the continuing incidence of listeriosis as some contaminated food remains in circulation. These are mostly poor people, and many of them are children.

The Food and Allied Workers Union (Fawu), which represents workers in the processed meat and poultry industries, among others, is pleased that fewer people are getting sick but we are unhappy that listeriosis remains a major threat to public health.

While the minister and his department have taken commendable steps to control the outbreak, Fawu believes the department is wrong to have stopped inspecting imported meat consignments for listeria.

The department says the source of the listeria outbreak is a polony factory in Limpopo, but it does not seem to ask how the deadly bacteria got to that factory in the first place.

Has the Health Department investigated a possible link to imported chicken products from Brazil, which has had repeated listeriosis outbreaks and has been shown to have questionable food safety controls?

Don’t forget the pending case against the chief executive of one of Brazil’s largest meat producers for bribing inspectors to turn a blind eye.

And yet South Africa imports hundreds of thousands of tons of chicken from Brazil, much of it the “white slime” or mechanically deboned meat that is a prime component of polony

The department should resume listeria inspections at our ports, and it should advise the public whether there is any connection between our deadly listeriosis outbreak and these imports.

Numerous countries have banned Brazilian meat produets, or imposed rigorous health-testing measures. Why should the South African public not receive the same protection?

Katishi Masemola
General Secretary Food and Allied Workers Union

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