Johannesburg, South Africa | AFP | Four countries in southern Africa on Monday took steps against m imports made at a factory found to be the origin of the world’s worst-ever listeria outbreak.
Mozambique and Namibia announced they 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.
Since January 2017, 948 people in South Africa have contracted listeriosis — a disease caused by bacteria from soil, water, vegetation and animal faeces which can contaminate fresh food, notably meat.
At least 180 have died, according to official figures.
Health officials say the source of the outbreak was an Enterprise Food plant, 300 kilometres (185 miles) northeast of the South African capital of Pretoria.
Queues formed outside Enterprise sites in South Africa as angry consumers and small retailers gathered to demand refunds on their purchases of ready-to-eat meat products that include polony — a local version of baloney sausage — sliced ham and Frankfurter-style sausages.
“I’ve eaten already some polony and Russian (sausage). I don’t know, maybe I can get some disease,” said taxi driver Bongani Mavuso as he queued outside Enterprise’s factory shop in Germiston, Johannesburg to seek a refund. “I’m just coming to collect my money.”
On Sunday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi took the unprecedented step of advising South Africans to avoid eating all processed meat products sold as “ready to eat” after announcing Enterprise as the outbreak’s source.
The Department of Health ordered retailers to immediately recall affected products.
The chief executive of Tiger Brands, which owns Enterprise, denied that its products had been shown to be responsible for the deaths.
“There is no direct link with the deaths to our products,” Lawrence MacDougall told a news conference.
– ‘Devastating’ to be linked to outbreak –
MacDougall did acknowledge that the government had linked the ST6 strain of listeria bacteria detected in Enterprise facilities with the outbreak that has resulted in 180 deaths.
“We are being extra cautious and vigilant, we are recalling all products made from the two facilities” affected, he said, adding that the government had only ordered the company to withdraw three product lines.
“Any loss of life is tragic. It is devastating for me to have our products linked to this outbreak.”
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