While meat legally placed on the market has been inspected and passed as safe for human consumption at abattoirs and processing plants, care must be taken by consumers to ensure that there is no post-production contamination of the meat and that the meat is properly cooked and kept in a hygienic environment and correct temperatures. Consumers are urged to observe the sell-by and use-by date for ready-to-eat products.
As communicated previously by the Minister of Health: Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, three (3) meat processing facilities have been implicated in the current outbreak and therefore several actions have been undertaken at these facilities, which include closure of the facilities, suspension export certification and recalling of the implicated products. The Minister of Trade and Industry, Dr Rob Davies, confirmed that immediately upon being informed of the affected products, the necessary notice to recall the affected products were issued by Government through the National Consumer Commission. Samples have been taken at these facilities, and confirmatory tests conducted to determine whether or not Listeria found is in fact the sequence types which are of public health concern at the moment.
The affected facilities will be monitored for implementation of corrective actions and once all the relevant regulatory authorities are satisfied with the measures taken, they will be permitted to continue their operations.
Further investigation on the origin, including Mechanically Deboned Meat (MDM), of the Listeria sequence types of concern is underway. The Minister of Trade and Industry highlighted that if imported products are found to be the origin of the current Listeriosis outbreak, swift action will be taken to protect the food safety in South Africa. Currently, imported MDM is being sampled for microbial contamination and since the beginning of March 2018 the testing regime also includes Listeria.
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Mr Senzeni Zokwana, stated that he was informed by the National Agricultural Marketing Council (NAMC) that it is still early days to fully assess the impact of listeriosis on the food basket and that the impact of product recalls might only be evident within the next three to four months.
Government remains concerned about agricultural commodities, including meat and meat products unrelated to the current outbreak of listeriosis and even fruits and vegetables from South Africa that are being banned from being imported and taken off the retail shelves in countries to which South Africa export such products. This is a concern since these products do not pose any risk to the consumers and have been certified safe for human consumption by our competent certifying official veterinarians.
The safety of meat produced in South Africa was clarified by the Minister of Health, to his SADC counterparts at a meeting of SADC Ministers of Health held in Kempton Park in Gauteng on the 15th March 2018 to update them on the Listeriosis outbreak in the country and to develop a common approach to combatting this illness across the region. We continuously provide the relevant information to our trade partners and therefore implore them not to instate unfair bans on South African products.
As a collective we want to express our support for the leadership of the Department of Health in interventions to protect human health from unsafe food products. We will continue our participation in the Public Health Emergency Coordinating Committee (PHECC) and the Multi-Sectoral National Outbreak Response Team (MNORT).
We appeal to all the role players involved in the value chain, from primary producers, processors and retail distributors to continue to work with government to ensure that this outbreak is brought under control.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of The Department of Trade and Industry, South Africa.
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