Motsoaledi: listeria threat is finally over

Minister of health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
Minister of health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
Image: Tshepo Kekana / Sunday Times / File

The world’s deadliest listeria outbreak is over‚ health minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Monday.

There have been no new cases of the ST6 strain of listeria since June.

The outbreak led to more than 203 deaths in SA.

The vast majority were caused by the ST6 strain of listeria‚ which was found in Tiger Brands Polokwane’s processed meat factory.

“Nobody‚ whether in government or in the private sector‚ can say how it up ended in the factory,” Motsoaledi told a press conference in Johannesburg.

“Tiger Brands has done every inspection and nobody has pinpointed how this listeria got in the [factory] this way‚” he said.

Every factory in SA that makes processed meat‚ a total of 157‚ has been inspected by WHO health inspectors and environmental health inspectors.

Samples of food and samples taken from factory machines and surfaces were tested.

Not a single factory‚ except Tiger Brands‚ had the ST6 strain of listeria that caused the outbreak.

The minister said: “Now ready-to-eat processed meats can be safely consumed.”

Motsoaledi said to prevent another outbreak of listeria‚ food safety laws had been updated and 900 health inspectors had been re-trained in taking samples from food factories.

The overall response to listeria and the testing of every factory had cost R12m‚ said health director-general Precious Matsoso.

Major retailers and small businesses alike said their polony sales had taken a huge knock since the outbreak was traced to Enterprise and Rainbow chicken polony and cold meat products in March.

Nompumelelo tuckshop owner Ali Abulai said: “We stopped selling polony altogether, but when the hype died down, we began selling again.”

Managing director of 13 Spar also reported a “huge drop in polony sales”. “The Enterprise and Rainbow factories have been cleared by government. As soon as we get the all-clear from our head offices we will be restocking their products.”

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