Cape Town – The Department of Health says while traces of Listeria were found at RCL Foods’ processing facility in Wolwehoek, in the Free State, the facility was not responsible for the recent listeriosis outbreak.
This comes after RCL Foods released a statement earlier in March saying a French lab which tested the same facility also found that the ST6 strain, which caused the listeriosis outbreak, was not present there.
The department said on Wednesday that the results of laboratory tests done on environmental samples collected from the Wolwehoek production facility showed Listeria monocytogenes.
“However, whole genome sequencing has confirmed that the strains found in the production facility are not the ST6 outbreak strain which has caused 91% of the human cases during the outbreak," the statement said.
This corroborates the finding of an investigation into the plant by a French laboratory, it added.
However, the statement said that these findings do not change the department’s announcement earlier in the month that Listeria had been found at Wolwehoek.
The department briefed Parliament to clarify that the danger that Listeria monocytogenes presented to consumers depended largely on the amount of monocytogenes found at a facility or on an item, saying small amounts of Listeria were not sufficient to cause illness.
Listeriosis as claimed 189 lives since last year, with 1 000 cases reported. Symptoms include nausea, dizziness and exhaustion. Pregnant women, neo natal infants, the elderly and those living with HIV are especially vulnerable.