Listeriosis: RCL not quite in the clear yet


Cape Town – The Department of Health said on Friday that RCL Food’s statement that a French laboratory cleared its Wolwehoek plant of the ST6 listeria strand does not change the fact that the department found listeria monocytogenes in various areas of its facilities.

RCL Foods said in a statement on Friday that no trace of the specific ST6 listeria strain responsible for the more than 1 000 infections that have recently hit the country was found in the Free State polony facility of its subsidiary, Rainbow.

RCL Foods’ statement said the company kept the authorities fully informed and that it closed its polony manufacturing plant as a precautionary measure.

READ: RCL says French lab cleared its Wolwehoek factory of listeriosis

However, the department said RCL Foods’ statement did not change Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi’s statement earlier this month saying that RCL’s facility tested positive for L. monocytogenes, although the sequence types of the isolates was not the ST6 that caused the latest cases of listeriosis.

“The point is that L. monocytogenes was recovered from the RCL Foods' Wolwehoek plant, and this state of affairs has not changed since the press conference of March 4 2018 held at the NICD premises and Sandringham,” the statement said.

The statement said at the time when the department identified the results of Enterprise Foods’ facility, it only had results of whole genome sequencing for the Enterprise Foods' Polokwane production facility.

“[Of] the RCL Foods Wolwehoek production facility in Sasolburg we only have results of culture so far and that 14% (28/201) of the environmental samples tested positive for L. monocytogenes.  We are awaiting whole genome sequencing results which will be available early next week,” the statement said.

READ: Watchdog's hands tied on processed meat facilities

The results shared by RCL Foods do not change the fact that listeria was found in the RCL Foods' Wolwehoek production facility in areas including the production facility and post-production which are high risk for product contamination, said the department.

“Although 92% of the L. monocytogenes isolates recovered from patients since January 2017 are ST6 (the outbreak strain), we have identified at least 19 other sequence types of L. monocytogenes that have also caused sporadic disease in patients – but these non-ST6 cases have not been linked to any specific contaminated foods as yet,” the department said.

The department reiterated that its recall was in effect for “ready to eat” processed meat products and that this did not affect frozen meat products, including chicken.

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