No polony: Everything we know so far about the listeriosis outbreak

2018-03-05 06:22
(Amanda Khoza, News24)

(Amanda Khoza, News24)

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Johannesburg – Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi has announced that the government has narrowed down the sources of the deadly listeriosis outbreak in South Africa.

So how does this affect you and what should you do to prevent falling victim?

Here's what we know so far and what you can do.

Which are the companies affected?

Motsoaledi said the recent outbreak was traced to Enterprise's Polokwane facility. Lawrence MacDougall, chief executive officer at Tiger Brands, said they had suspended operations at that facility and its Germiston facility. Listeria was also traced to a Rainbow Chicken facility in the Free State, but further tests were needed as the sequence type was unknown.

How was it traced?

Motsoaledi announced that the disease was traced after several children presented with gastroenteritis in Soweto earlier in the week. Tests were done, and it was found that they had listeriosis.

LISTERIOSIS TIME BOMB: What it took to find the source

What have RCL and Tiger brands said?

RCL Foods said it suspended all production of its polony brand at the Wolwehoek processing plant following the announcement by Motsoaledi.

It said all polony products produced at Wolwehoek have been recalled as a precautionary measure, even though the specific strain of the pathogen responsible for the outbreak had not been linked to any RCL facility.

It had also commissioned an independent testing of samples and the environment at Wolwehoek and expected results later this week. "Enhanced testing" at all its facilities and products was also being conducted.

It had also set up a consumer hotline, which can be reached at 0800 204 675.

MacDougall said Tiger Brands had suspended operations at both Enterprise manufacturing facilities in Polokwane and Germiston and the group has halted supply to trade. He said they had contacted all customers to confirm that recalled products were removed from store shelves.

It has detected low levels of listeriosis at its food manufacturing plant, MacDougall said, but denied any current direct links between the deaths of 180 people from the foodborne outbreak.

At a press briefing, MacDougall said Tiger Brands was still quantifying the financial impact of the outbreak on its business.

Fin24 reported that the share price held steady around R394.02 during Monday's briefing, after falling more than 8% when markets opened.

By 16:00, before the briefing ended, shares were trading up at R398.50.

Recall from food retail giants

Pick n Pay and Shoprite on Sunday said they would withdraw Enterprise and Rainbow food products following the announcement on listeriosis by the government. In addition, all ready-to-eat products, such as polony and Russian sausages manufactured at the Rainbow facility in Sasolburg, were also being withdrawn.

The Food Lover's Market group has also initiated an immediate nationwide recall of all Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken processed meats, and customers were notified to return products bought at Food Lover's Market or Freshstop stores for a full refund, the company said.

Till slips and proof of purchase were not needed.

Woolworths said it was, as a precautionary measure, recalling a limited number of viennas and cold meats.

The company confirmed to Fin24 that Enterprise Food supplies meats for products it was recalling. Some house brand products were pulled from shelves or taken back for a refund. 

Business impact

Dawie Maree, head of marketing and information at FNB Business Agriculture, told Fin24 that the outbreak and subsequent spreading of listeriosis contamination will likely not lead to short-term job losses as most were probably permanent and the company should have business contingency plans. 

While workers might not go to work, they will probably still receive pay as companies usually have insurance for this kind of outbreak, he said.

Maree said the huge recall will likely have an impact on the profits of the companies involved.

Gryphon Asset Management research analyst and portfolio manager Casparus Treurnicht, said the company appeared to have been found lacking in its facility safeguards and would have to prepare itself to sacrifice large amounts of money towards litigation and PR damage control. 

The company's financials would bear the brunt of the impact "for another while," he commented. 

On Monday, the doors of Limpopo's Enterprise factory in Polokwane remained shut and management told workers that the factory would be closed until further notice, following a two-hour meeting.

Imports banned

Zimbabwe has reportedly banned the importation of cold meat from South Africa, following reports that Mozambique and Namibia were immediately suspending imports of the products.

Botswana said it was recalling the items "with immediate effect", while Zambia called on South African retail chains in its country to pull the incriminated goods from local shelves.

What to look out for

Motsoaledi said polony was a definite source. However, he warned that products such as viennas, russians, frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats not typically cooked, could also be affected due to the risk of cross-contamination.

What to do with your products

The public have been advised to remove any Enterprise ready-to-eat products from their fridges and place them in a plastic bag away from other products. Keeping them among other products could cause cross-contamination.

How many have died?

The outbreak of listeriosis is one of the largest in the world and has claimed 180 lives in South Africa to date. 

- Health24: 7 times you are at danger of getting food borne illnesses

- Health24 Quiz: How much do you know about the deadly Listeriosis outbreak?

Read more on:    tiger brands  |  enterprise  |  rcl foods  |  health  |  listeriosis

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