Amidst a listeriosis outbreak which has claimed the lives of more than 60 people in South Africa, the Consumer Goods Council of SA (CGCSA), representing the retail sector and food manufacturers, on Thursday moved to assure communities that food produced in the country was safe.
“Our food is safe. Having worked in the food industry we follow a process [through which] any raw material that comes in, gets tested. When you do processing in the factory, we have online testing that we carry out. Before any product goes out to distribution, it gets tested,” Matlou Setati, an executive at the CGCSA told the National Press Club in Pretoria.
“Retailers also, they do supplier audits. They do their own supplier audits just to make sure that whatever comes onto the shelf is indeed what the manufacturer said it to be. So, basically we can just assure the consumers that we endeavour to follow strict food safety and management systems.”
On Monday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told reporters in Pretoria that more than 700 cases of listeriosis have been confirmed in South Africa, and 61 people have already succumbed to the disease.
“There are 727 laboratory confirmed cases that occurred in the country. This means that since the last press conference of 5 December 2017, a total of 170 extra cases emerged,” said Motsoaledi at the time.
“Of these 170, a total of 51 had already occurred before 5 December 2017, only that we are discovering them now as the search continues, hence they were captured retrospectively. Therefore, there are 119 new cases that occurred since our last press conference.”
During the December briefing, Motsoaledi had revealed that 36 patients had died.
“Now out of the 727 laboratory confirmed cases which we know about, we were only able to trace 134 actual patients. 134 of 727 is only 18 percent,” he said.
“This means that we still have a very long way to go in searching. Out of the 134 traced patients, 61 had passed on.”
Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes bacterium.
The South African national department of health has cautioned that the main preventative measure is to always ensure that good hygiene is followed.
This includes using only pasteurised dairy products; thoroughly cooking raw foods from animal sources such as beef, poultry or pork, washing hands before preparing food, before eating and after using the toilet, and washing raw vegetables and fruits thoroughly before eating.