Home News South Africa’s listeria outbreak is largest on record – WHO

South Africa’s listeria outbreak is largest on record – WHO

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Tiger Brands chief executive Lawrence MacDougall said the cost of the withdrawal would be at their expense

CONTAMINATION: Tiger Brands food products are being discarded en masse after Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the listeria outbreak which had claimed 180 live since January last year had been traced to polony from a Tiger Brands factory in Polokwane.Picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

The South Africa listeria outbreak that has killed 180 people since January is the largest ever recorded globally, the World Health Organization said.

“Yes, 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, told Reuters in an emailed response.

Tiger Brands was on damage control mode as the JSE-listed food giant denied any allegation a link existed between their products and more than 180 deaths induced by the deadly listeria outbreak.

It also announced that it had suspended operations at its Polokwane and Germiston facilities, and that it was withdrawing all products made at these facilities.

Some of the ready-to-eat processed meat products produced by Enterprise Foods, a division of Tiger Brands, which have since been recalled, include polony, russians and viennas.

Tiger Brands chief executive Lawrence MacDougall said the cost of the withdrawal would be at their expense.

He asserted that there was no direct correlation between the more than 180 deaths caused by the unique ST6 listeria strain and their products; and wouldn’t comment on the financial implication of the national recall as they were busy collating the data.

MacDougall crushed any suggestion that the origins of the outbreak could have been caused by poor hygiene standards at their facilities.

Meanwhile, as anger erupted over the dismal handling of the listeriosis outbreak, it emerged that a shocking 78 of the 180 deaths from the killer disease were infants.

Dr Juno Thomas of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) revealed that the high number of fatalities included newborns who were only 28 days old or even younger.

“We are concerned that the information regarding the outbreak and the measures to be taken will not reach people, particularly in the peri-urban and rural areas.

“Therefore, yes, we are expecting more cases,” she said.