As a result of the disease, not only did sales fall but jobs were also lost.
ENTREPRENEURS in the meat processing industry – and not just retailers and consumers – suffered tremendously because of the listeriosis outbreak, industry players said.
The sector said it was experiencing a massive reduction in volumes of products sold; polony and vienna sales went down by 70%, while that of other processed meats recorded a 50% drop.
The drop in sales also led to job losses, and by the end of last month the national figure of job losses, estimated at more than 2000, cost the industry R800 million a month.
Department of Health spokesperson Foster Mohale said they were not aware of any job losses.
“Even at factories where we found the source of listeriosis, we never heard of any job losses.
“Even so, the lives of the people come first.
“Even if we knew people were losing their jobs, we couldn’t have let factories operate and place people’s lives at risk,” Mohale said.
Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced the outbreak of this serious yet treatable and preventable disease, saying it was caused by the bacterium listeria monocytogenes.
Although Motsoaledi announced the listeriosis outbreak last December, the disease escalated this year in March.
He said that while polony was defined as the source of the outbreak, other products such as viennas, russians, and cold meats could also be affected.
Best Cut Meat managing director Nkululeko Luthuli said the outbreak had led to 153 employees losing their jobs. He said the department visited the business premises to conduct tests prior to the announcement about the outbreak.
However, he said the department did not give them a response on whether their products were free of the bacteria.
“Because we didn’t receive any feedback, we remain in limbo and at the time decided to suspend our manufacturing and distribution as a precautionary measure. We conducted laboratory tests, only to find that we were clear of the bacteria,” he said. Luthuli said that although their products were safe, business was still slow. He said: “Even though there is a little bit of recovery, it is not the same as before.
“When we speak to our customers, they say that they will not eat the product because the minister said so.”
Last week Motsoaledi told Parliament that the listeriosis epidemic was under control now that processed meat products from Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken had been recalled.
Luthuli nonetheless urged Motsoaledi to make an announcement that the processed meats were safe to eat “in the same manner he told the public to stop their consumption”.