PRETORIA – The country’s Listeriosis outbreak shows no sign of slowing down.
In the last week alone, 57 people died from the food-borne disease, bringing the death toll to over 160.
The source of the outbreak remains unknown.
The manner in which food is prepared in businesses and in homes has been under the spotlight since the outbreak of the disease in December 2017. Fruit and vegetables must be washed well and meat cooked thoroughly.
But awareness of the outbreak remains low.
“Somebody preparing food in Pretoria to a small group of people will not have that food available in the Northern Cape for example so I doubt very much that it's a preparation process in a home kitchen. I believe this is a processed product of some sort that is distributed across the entire country,” said food safety expert Dr Lucia Anelich.
Anelich believes processed foods and cold meats and ready-made salads found at local delis could be the culprit for the outbreak.
“Environmental hygiene from an industry perspective is really important... to find it and to kill it so it doesn’t continuously contaminate different products.”
EXPLAINER: What is listeriosis?
Another expert believes taking charge of how your food is being prepared is the safest bet.
“If it’s been made outside of your control, keep yourself away from that. Get into the habit of cooking thoroughly and make sure you have handled your own food because that the only way you can be under control until we hear more about sources of infection,” said Unisa researcher, Dr Prudence Kayoka-Kabongo.
While the National Institute for Communicable Diseases tries to locate the source of the outbreak, over 800 cases in all nine provinces have been confirmed.
The majority of deaths – 98 – have occurred in Gauteng.