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Uganda orders supermarkets to remove S.African products as listeria scare spreads


Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT & AFP | The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has ordered super markets that import South African meat products to remove them from their shelves after a listeria outbreak that has killed at least 180 people.

In a statement, UNBS said they have started carrying out market surveillance inspections of supermarkets said to be importers of South African fruit and meat products.

Some of the suspected pre-packaged products from South Africa include ready-to-eat deli meats (polony, ham, salami), hot dogs, refrigerated  meat spreads and sausages. According to an internal UNBS memo, staff were warned to also look out for vegetables, fruits, and several milk products.

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.

“In order to ensure the health and safety of the public, UNBS is carrying out market surveillance inspections in all super markets that are said to be main importers of South African meat products. This is to ensure that affected products are removed from the market. Analysis of related products is also being carried out to ensure there has been no cross-contamination,” said the UNBS statement dated March 8.

UNBS said that their imports inspectors at border points have also been notified to withhold consignments of all pre-packaged and ready-to-eat meat products from South Africa until further notice.

They however do not know the volume of products that have come into the country since the outbreak started early this year.

Import volumes not clear

In an internal memo, Bridget Atuhaire, NBS head of Compliance said that “I am aware that most of these came through our office at Entebbe International Airport as they have a short shelf life and we have only registered four entries since January 2017 to date therefore we cannot generate adequate data on this as such consignments are under the mandate of Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF).

On Tuesday, Kenya became the first nation in east Africa to ban ready-to-eat meat products from South Africa that include polony — a local version of baloney sausage — sliced ham and Frankfurter-style sausages.

“In order to ensure the health of the public is protected and as a precautionary measure you are required to stop the importation and sale of these products” and recall those already on sale, the Kenya health ministry wrote in a note to country health officers.

Mozambique, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe have also blocked the import of the products, including those made by the Enterprise factory, owned by Tiger Brands — which was pinpointed as the source of the outbreak — and others made by Rainbow Chickens.

At least 180 have died, according to official figures.

The United Nations has previously said South Africa’s listeriosis outbreak is believed to be the largest-ever worldwide.

The infection mainly affects children and has a three-week incubation period, making it difficult to track.

Contamination in humans — especially those with compromised immune systems — can result in flu-like illness, infection of the bloodstream and, in severe cases, infection of the brain which can prove fatal.



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