Tiger Brands, on behalf of its division Enterprise Foods, has committed to recalling products that are identified with listeriosis outbreak, but are conducting its own tests as well.
This follows an announcement by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Sunday that the source of the present outbreak was an Enterprise facility in Polokwane.
Listeria has been traced to another Enterprise facility in Germiston on the East Rand, and a Rainbow chicken facility in the Free State, but further tests were needed as the sequence type was not yet known.
"As a company that prioritises the health and safety of consumers above all else, we are committed to ensuring that all Enterprise products, as identified, will be recalled as part of the directive received. We are working very closely with the officials at present to conduct the process and will provide updates to the public on this matter," Tiger Brands spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said in a statement.
"The company proactively amplified its testing for listeria and can confirm that we had found a low detection of a strain of listeria in some products on 14 February but the presence of the ST6 strain [the outbreak strain] has not been confirmed by our tests.
"The company has furthermore sent its samples to an external laboratory to test for the strain itself and should receive the results tomorrow [Monday]."
Naicker said the company has been working with the department of health and the NICD on its own findings.
"We await confirmation of the strain testing to confirm the strain. In the meantime, we reaffirm our commitment to recall the identified Enterprise products as soon as possible."
Motsoaledi said the National Consumer Commission has issued safety recall notices to the affected manufacturers and facilities, and the companies are now responsible for coming up with the recall plan. The plan must be sufficient to cover their entire distribution chain, and the facilities will also have to resource and pay for the implementation.
He said while polony was a definite source, other 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.Pregnant women, neonates, elderly people and anyone with weakened systems should "not go near" these products.Motsoaledi said retailers must clean their fridges, meat slicers, and either remove the ready-to-eat meat products or place them in plastic bags in separate fridges - ahead of the recall. "Any human being in the country who has these products in their fridge must take them out immediately."
Motsoaledi said statistics on March 2 show that the outbreak has claimed about 180 lives and 948 laboratory-confirmed cases had been reported to the NICD.
Listeria is a bacterium that is naturally found in the environment - it commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the faeces of some animals. It can contaminate a wide variety of food types, including meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurised and pasteurised), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products.