South Africa – Listeria outbreak largest on record WHO says as Government blames food firms

ABC Net News

South Africa is currently in the middle of the biggest listeria outbreak ever seen, according to the UN World Health Organisation (WHO).

Key points:

  • It took South Africa more than a year to identify the cause of listeria
  • Government blames food firms for the world’s worst outbreak
  • Cold meat producers deny direct link with the outbreak

The South African listeria outbreak has killed 180 people since January 2017, with nearly 1,000 cases reported.

The country’s Government has blamed producers of cold meat products for delays in tracing the cause.

“This is the largest ever recorded outbreak of this severe form of listeriosis globally,” Peter K. Ben Embarek, who manages the WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network, said.

The Government, which has been criticised for taking too long to find the cause, on Sunday linked the outbreak to a meat product known as “polony” made by Tiger’s Enterprise Food.

It also said it was investigating a plant owned by RCL Foods that makes a similar product, whose shares also slid on Monday before recovering.

Both companies, which say they are cooperating with the authorities, suspended processed meat production at their plants after health authorities ordered a recall of cold meats associated with the outbreak from outlets at home and abroad.

Listeria causes flu-like symptoms, nausea, diarrhoea and infection of the blood stream and brain.

South Africa’s Health Ministry said the source was found after pre-school children fell ill from eating polony products traced to processed meat producers.



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