Consumers have a right to safe products - Davies

Cape Town – Owners of food facilities where listeriosis has been detected need to “clean up their act”, according to Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies.

He was briefing members of the portfolio committee on trade and industry on Tuesday. Even though Davies was addressing the department’s mandate in relation to the State of the Nation Address and the budget, chair Joanmaraie Fubbs asked him to talk about the “meat issue”.

Davies said the Department of Trade and Industry has been working with the health and agriculture, forestry and fisheries department once it was brought to their attention that there have been high instances of illness and death from listeriosis.

He spoke specifically about the role of the National Consumer Commission, which needs to ensure that customers have access to safe goods. “Customers have the right to be provided with safe goods,” he said.

He commended the fact that food products were recalled from shelves within the hour of Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi's disclosure of the source of the outbreak.

“The same as with motor cars which catch fire, the product is recalled. Owners of facilities have now got a job to clean up their act, a literal description of what they need to do,” he said.

Speaking on allegations of where the listeria has come from, Davies said it is important to act on evidence.

“We will not hesitate to use the tools in our toolbox, which is the NCC in conjunction with and led by my colleagues and their departments.”

Motsoaledi on Sunday said the source of the listeriosis was traced to a subsidiary of Tiger Brands, the Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane, Limpopo.

At a briefing on the outbreak on Monday, Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall gave the assurance that the company has taken corrective steps at its facilities by suspending operations and having the premises cleaned.

He also said that consumer safety is the company's main concern, and that it has not yet quantified the financial damage of the outbreak on its own business and industry.

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