Listeriosis cases decline

Friday, May 18, 2018

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) says the number of cases of Listeriosis reported per week has decreased since the implicated products were recalled on 4 March 2018, with a total of 64 cases reported since 5 March.

A report released by the NICD stated that 1 033 laboratory confirmed Listeriosis cases were reported from 1 January 2017 to 10 May 2018. Six additional cases were reported during the period 2 - 10 May 2018.

“Since the identification of the source of the outbreak and the recall of the implicated products, the number of cases of Listeriosis has declined drastically, as evident in the latest situation report,” said government said on Thursday.

The Department of Health (DoH); Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF); Trade and Industry (the dti); National Consumer Commission (NCC) and National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) on Thursday said no efforts were being spared to control and contain the outbreak.

Government said the recall and destruction of the implicated food products, both within South Africa and internationally (those that were exported), has been closely monitored by the NCC, the Department of Environmental Affairs and district environmental health practitioners (EHPs) in various municipalities.

Prior to 2017, an average of 60 to 80 laboratory-confirmed Listeriosis cases per year (approximately one per week), were reported in South Africa. In July 2017, an increase in laboratory-confirmed cases of Listeriosis was reported to the NICD, which was followed by investigations into the reported increase.

On 5 December 2017, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, announced that the source of the outbreak was identified as ready-to-eat processed meat products manufactured at Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane production facility.

A recall of affected products was initiated on 4 March 2018.

Factories that have produced implicated products ceased production on 5 March 2018 and have been inspected by a team of national, provincial, district officials and World Health Organisation (WHO) food safety experts.

The factories have commenced with an extensive revision of their production processes and safety procedures. The implementation of their plans will be monitored by district officials.

Meanwhile, the DAFF continues to liaise with international trading partners to provide reassurance that the risk of Listeria is confined to recalled products, and that all implicated products are recalled and destroyed.

In addition, the department has rescinded export certification of foodstuffs implicated in the outbreak. 

Monitoring imported products

Government also continues to monitor imported meat and all imported products of animal origin, with inspection being carried out for the presence of recognised pathogens, including Listeria monocytogenes.

“However, additional testing by Port Health officials, which was implemented as part of investigations to determine the source of the outbreak, has ceased. Locally, provincial Departments of Agriculture are also conducting inspections at abattoirs,” government said.

Meanwhile, environmental health services at district level are being strengthened through provision of intensive training in assessment of food safety at production facilities.

Training commenced in Gauteng Province on 10 May 2018.

Strengthening testing capacity 

A national meeting of provincial communicable disease co-ordinators, health promoters, environmental health practitioners and veterinary public health officials was held over two days in April.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) sponsored a meeting of 16 international trade partners to support the development of contingency plans for Listeriosis.

Government said the National Health Laboratory Service (NHLS) food testing capacity has been strengthened through the employment of additional human resources, equipment and updated standard operating procedures. Specimen collection procedures have been refined.

“A review of food safety legislation is being conducted. A consultative meeting regarding compulsory specifications for processed meat is being convened during the week of 14 May 2018,” said government.

Motsoaledi is scheduled to address Ministers of the African Regions World Health Assembly about South Africa’s situation report this Saturday. –