Listeriosis cases on the decrease. Concerns have been raised over a decision by the Health Department to halt the testing of imported raw meats for listeriosis contamination at ports of entry.
This was after the department apparently sent out a memo calling for an immediate stop to the testing of uncooked meats on April 6.
Close to 200 people in South Africa died during the listeriosis outbreak while 1 019 laboratory cases have been reported.
Investigations traced the source of the outbreak to the Enterprise foods factory in Polokwane, Limpopo, dealing with processed cold meat products.
As a result, the company decided to recall viennas, polony and russians.
According to the memo that the Sowetan has seen, the decision was taken following Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s announcement that the listeriosis outbreak was traced to a factory in Polokwane.
“The sampling of raw imported poultry is therefore no longer required based on the finding of the investigation conducted during the outbreak.
“Regions are thus requested to cease all sampling of imported meat products for the purposes of determining the presence of listeria monocytogenes with immediate effect,” it states.
Yesterday, Blaine van Rensburg from the South African Poultry Association said they had raised concerns with the department over the decision as this was risky.
Van Rensburg said although the outbreak was traced to a factory, it was never ascertained how the facility became infected with listeria.
He said the fact that raw meats would eventually end up being cooked brought some form of comfort but did not eliminate the risk completely.
He said they were also informed by the department that local companies in the poultry industry will have to foot the bill for testing the meats.
Van Rensburg added that between 42 and 55 tons of poultry products were gaining entry to the South African market on a monthly basis.
According to information from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the number of laboratory [tests] confirmed [that] listeriosis cases had decreased since implicated products were recalled at the beginning of March.
Attempts to reach the Department of Health for comment yesterday were unsuccessful by the time of going to print.
However, Dr Juno Thomas from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said there was no reason to be alarmed. Thomas said routine testing of raw meats for listeria contamination was not a requirement internationally although raw poultry was high risk.
She said the key to minimising risk was for factory outlets to put measures in place in order to guard against infections.
“At the end of the day it all comes down to individual facilities. They must manage the facility as if every piece of chicken has listeriosis,” Thomas said.
Sowetan 9 May 2018
By Zoë Mahopo