Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) Statement on the Outbreak of Listeriosis Disease in South Africa

The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA) has been advised by the Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, of the outbreak of Listeriosis, a food borne disease in South Africa. So far, a total of 557 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported from all provinces, and regrettably, there have been 36 deaths reported. It is important to stress that this is not a new disease; the only difference being that previous cases have not been as severe as the latest outbreak.

WHAT IS LISTERIOSIS

Listeriosis is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes. The bacterium is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation. Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources.

HOW IS LISTERIOSIS TRANSMITTED

Listeriosis is usually spread through the ingestion of contaminated food products most frequently with raw or unpasteurised milk and soft cheeses, but also vegetables, processed foods, ready-to-eat meats and smoked fish products. Listeria can survive in normal temperatures associated with refrigeration (4°C). The Listeria bacterium can also be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her unborn baby during pregnancy or at the time of birth. Direct contact with the organism can cause skin lesions.

HOW DANGEROUS OR FATAL IS LISTERIOSIS

Infection with listeria may result in the following three conditions: flu-like illness with diarrhoea including fever; general body pains vomiting and weakness; infection of the bloodstream which is called septicaemia; and meningoencephalitis (infection of the brain). Although anyone can get Listeriosis, those at high risk of developing severe disease include new-borns, the elderly, pregnant women, persons with weak immunity such as individuals with HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease.

RESPONSE BY CGCSA MEMBERS

We wish to confirm that Retailer and Manufacturer Members already adhere to the strictest hygienic and food safety standards, which are regularly monitored by the Department of Health. Our concern is always the health of consumers and our members will not compromise on this non-negotiable requirement.

CGCSA members have ongoing routine testing schedules in place to monitor all food products for pathogens and to take action if these organisms are detected. The members have, as a result of the latest outbreak, taken additional precautionary measures to ensure the safety of food products sold to consumers.

ADVICE TO CONSUMERS

The CGCSA would like to urge consumers to continue to take the necessary measures to maintain strict hygiene, especially at home. This includes washing hands and keep food at safe temperatures. We stress that all the food products manufactured and sold by our members is safe to consume, and the risk of infection is minimal, if at all. Should consumers suspect infection as per the mentioned symptoms, we recommend that they consult medical doctors to understand the cause of their symptoms.

Would you like to contribute?