Dr Gerald Gwinji
Thandeka Moyo, Health Reporter THE Government has with immediate effect banned importation of food stuffs linked to the deadly listeriosis in South Africa following reports that processed ready-to-eat meats including polony and sausages had been identified as the source of the outbreak.
Listeriosis is a rare food-borne disease found in 10 cases per one million people and was first reported in South Africa early this year.
According to South African health officials, polony, Russian sausages, viennas, cold meat, ham, sausages, meat spreads, corned meat, salami, pepperoni and most refrigerated uncooked food are the source of the infection.
On Sunday‚ South Africa’s Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi named Enterprise’s food production plant in Polokwane‚ Limpopo‚ as the confirmed source of the unique strain of listeria‚ which has caused the world’s biggest documented listeriosis outbreak‚ with 948 confirmed cases and 180 deaths, online sources say.
In an interview yesterday, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Child Care, Major General (Retired) Dr Gerald Gwinji said no listeriosis cases had been reported in the country yet.
“There is a reported outbreak of listeriosis going on in South Africa which started on January 13. What makes this outbreak significant for us is that we do import quite significant amount of food particularly processed foods into Zimbabwe from South Africa,” said Dr Gwinji.
He warned members of the public against consuming all ready-to-eat processed foods associated with the identified companies.
“Should any products from these specified food production plants be found at our borders then our officials should confiscate, quarantine and then send them for destruction.
“Until we are very clear that the outbreak is under control and that the specified food production plants have been certified free of infection, we will avoid allowing any of those products to come into the country,” said Dr Gwinji
He said those at risk included pregnant women, infants aged less than 28 days, the elderly and anyone with a weakened immune system.
In a statement the Ministry of Health and Child Care said the disease takes a few days to weeks generally up to two weeks to start showing in those affected.
“The Ministry of Health and Child Care wishes to notify the public that Zimbabwe has not recorded any case of listeriosis. The outbreak of the disease which is being experienced in South Africa since the beginning of the year is still confined to that country and has not spread to Zimbabwe,” reads the statement.
Signs and symptoms of the disease include diarrhoea, high fever up to 38 degrees, headache, muscle pains and complications such as septicaemia and meningitis.
South Africa’s online media outlets reported that major supermarkets like Pick n’ Pay and Woolworth had started recalling products linked to listeriosis. — @thamamoe.
Meanwhile as reported by the BBC ,several southern African states have banned processed meat from South Africa after it said it had identified the source of a food poisoning outbreak.
The government blamed the sausage known as polony for the listeria poisoning that has killed 180 people. It advised people not to eat any processed meat.
It ordered a recall of the product, prompting shops to clear their shelves.
Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana and Zambia followed suit, all ordering a recall or suspending imports.
The Mozambican ministry of agriculture and food security “asks that all owners of establishments that commercialise these products start to withdraw from the shelves due to the danger that this constitutes to health”, it said in a statement.
‘No direct link’
It took South Africa more than a year to trace the outbreak.
There have been 948 cases of listeria poisoning in South Africa reported since January 2017, according to Reuters – which the UN calls the largest outbreak ever.
It is believed to have originated in a factory in the northern city of Polokwane, which makes Enterprise Food products. The chief executive of Tiger Brands, which owns the Enterprise label, insisted on Monday that “no direct link” had been proved between its products and any of the 180 deaths.
Even so, Lawrence McDougall said his firm was “being extra cautious and vigilant” and abiding by the government’s recall order.
A plant owned by a second company, RCL Foods, is also under suspicion. It has suspended meat production too.
‘It’s in my kids’ lunch’
After health authorities ordered a recall of polony, supermarkets like Shoprite, Pick n Pay, Spar and Woolworths cleared it from their shelves, along with bacon, sausages and other processed meat products.
Customers descended on the outlets to return their purchases and demand a refund.
“I already packed my kids’ lunch with this product, so I’m shocked,” said Tshepo Makhura, a 37-year-old call centre agent.
“I lost trust with Enterprise. I’ll be scared even if they say this problem is solved. I would rather go back to peanut butter and jam.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi warned people to “avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready to eat”.
A shortage of the solution used for testing for the listeria bacteria meant the results of the tests at the Polokwane factory were delayed by two weeks, an official at the National Institute of Communicable Diseases told Times Live.
The listeria bacteria is hard to test for, as it is not homogenously distributed in food. It can also “hide away” in cracks or niches in factories.
Consumers who have kept polony products in their fridges were advised to disinfect them with diluted bleach.