Listeriosis: Consumers urged to check meat sell-by dates

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File: Polony

JOHANNESBURG –  The government has urged consumers to observe all sell-by and use-by dates for ready-to-eat products.

Despite all meat being inspected at abattoirs and processing plants.

"While meat legally placed on the market by abattoirs and processing plants has been inspected and passed as safe for human consumption, care must be taken by consumers to ensure that there is no post-production contamination of the meat and that the meat is properly cooked and kept in a hygienic environment and correct temperatures," the departments of agriculture, forestry and fisheries; health; and trade and industry said in a statement. 

Earlier, Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, said that three meat processing facilities have been implicated in the current listeriosis outbreak and therefore been closed, their export certification taken away and the implicated products had been recalled.

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Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies confirmed that immediately on being informed of the affected products, the necessary notice to recall them was issued by the government through the National Consumer Commission.

"Samples have been taken at these facilities and confirmatory tests conducted to determine whether or not the listeria found is, in fact, the sequence types that are of public health concern at the moment," the statement read.

"The affected facilities will be monitored for implementation of corrective actions and once all the relevant regulatory authorities are satisfied with the measures taken, they will be permitted to continue their operations. Further investigation of the origin, including mechanically deboned meat (MDM) ... is underway."

Davies highlighted that if imported products were found to be the origin of the current listeriosis outbreak, swift action would be taken to protect food safety in South Africa.

Currently, imported MDM was being sampled for microbial contamination and since the beginning of March the testing regime had included listeria.

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana said he was informed by the National Agricultural Marketing Council that it was still too early to assess fully the impact of listeriosis on the food basket and that the impact of product recalls might only be evident within the next three to four months.

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"The government remains concerned about agricultural commodities, including meat and meat products unrelated to the current outbreak of listeriosis and even fruits and vegetables from South Africa that are being banned from being imported and taken off the retail shelves in countries to which South Africa exports such products," the joint statement read.

"This is a concern since these products do not pose any risk to  consumers and have been certified safe for human consumption by our competent certifying official veterinarians."

Motsoaledi clarified the safety of meat produced in South Africa to his Southern African Development Community (SADC) counterparts at a meeting of ministers in Gauteng on 15 March, updating them on the outbreak and working to develop a common approach to combating this illness across the region, the statement said.