South Africa’s listeria problem isn’t over: research

New research from the University of Pretoria shows that some foods being sold in informal shops still carry the listeria pathogen, which lead to hundreds of deaths and over 1,000 cases of Listeriosis earlier this year.

The findings come months after health minister Aaron Mostoaledi declared the outbreak over, and after factories where the bacteria was found were reopened.

According to the research, which was conducted by UP’s Food Safety Research Group and presented at the International Conference for Food Safety and Security in Pretoria, there are still traces of the bacteria in food samples that were tested across the country.

The researchers took samples of polony before, during and after the outbreak – totalling 366 samples from 77 different brands in eight provinces. The results were as follows:

  • Before the outbreak, two of 42 samples tested positive for listeria;
  • During the outbreak eight out of 186 samples tested positive; and
  • As at September 2018, four samples out of 116 tested positive.

According to the researchers, as quoted by TimesLive, the most worrying aspect of the results is that even though big brands were pulled during the crisis and the factories cleaned out, lesser-known brands slipped through and may still carry tainted products.

Further, this was far more likely to impact the informal sector, which is not as tightly regulated as the formal sector.

The Listeriosis outbreak which hit South Africa at the end of 2017 and in the early months of 2018 led to 200 deaths in the country, and over 1,000 infections.

Tiger Brands’ Enterprise meats were identified by the Department of Health as the main source of the outbreak, forcing the group to pull the brand from store shelves, and to shut down two factories where they were produced.

The group took a R400 million hit from the fallout, with another potential R425 million class action lawsuit hanging in the balance.

Read: Listeriosis outbreak hits Tiger Brands for R363 million – and counting

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South Africa’s listeria problem isn’t over: research