A unique strain of listeria has caused the world’s largest ever listeriosis outbreak in South Africa to have occurred to date. The South African Minister of Health Dr. Aaron Motoaledi has provided an update to shed light to the magnitude of the food-borne disease and reported that, as of March 2, 2018 there have been a total of 948 laboratory-confirmed cases since January of last year. A total of 659 patients out of the 948 have been traced, and 180 individuals have died.
According to Foodsafety.gov listeria is bacteria found in soil, and listeriosis is a disease caused by the listeria bacteria from soil, water vegetation and animal feaces which can contaminate fresh food, poultry and can live in processed ready-to-eat meats such as palony, ham, sausages, russians and viennas . Listeriosis has an incubation period of 3 to 70 days, and symptoms include fever, stiff neck, and confusion, weakness, vomiting, and sometimes preceded by diarrhea. Older adults, pregnant women, infants, and people with weakened immune systems are most susceptible to the disease.
After intensive research and lab tests, the National Institute of Communicable Disease (NICD) reported that the source of the outbreak can be confirmed to be from the Enterprise foods facilities located in Polokwane and Germiston which sells processed and ready to eat cold meats, and their polony was confirmed to be the source of the outbreak after strains of listeria were found in majority of their polony products. The minister of Health urged all consumers to throw away any Enterprise food products and asked companies to start a recall strategy immediately as listeria can be transferred to other products it comes in contact with on the exterior packaging.
Food can be contaminated from any food chain stage from farming, processing, packaging, retail and home food preparations. It is high time the government made emphasis and strengthened food safety policies on manufactures and educated consumers on safety precaution measures.
Here are some food safety measures:
- Do not drink raw milk
- Wash hands thoroughly before food preparations and rinse raw produce before consumption
- Thoroughly cook raw food from animal sources and poultry
- Keep uncooked meats and poultry separately from vegetables, fruits and ready-to-eat foods
- Wash hands, knives, countertops, and cutting boards after preparing uncooked foods
- Consume perishable and ready-to-eat foods as soon as possible, and avoid keeping it re-fridgerated for long periods
Contaminated food product still poses a major public health risk not only in South Africa but in Africa , as there are still poor working conditions and infrastructures. All consumers are urged to avoid purchasing and consuming processed and ready-to-eat foods and to also throw away any Enterprise food products.
written by Ndzalama Shivambu