JOHANNESBURG - Supermarkets began a mass recall of meat products made at a facility that health officials say was the source of a listeriosis outbreak that has killed 180 since January 2017.
Listeriosis is caused by a bacteria found in soil, water, vegetation and animal faeces, and can contaminate food, especially fresh meat, dairy and seafood. It is prevented by basic hygiene and washing food.
The country's second-largest supermarket chain, Pick n Pay, said it had "acted immediately to withdraw all products from the manufacturing sites identified by the Department of Health".
"All fridges and food preparation areas in our stores will now be re-cleaned to prevent any cross-contamination. Recalled meat is being isolated and will be safely destroyed," Pick n Pay, which has 1,420 stores in South Africa, said in a statement. It warned that "a very broad range of retailers" could be affected.
We are removing products that may be linked to the listeriosis outbreak from our stores. Customers who bought any Enterprise product (incl Bokkie, Renown, Lifestyle, Mieliekip), or any Rainbow ready-to-eat products eg. Polony or Russians can return the product for a full refund.— Pick n Pay (@PicknPay) March 5, 2018
Woolworths said as an added precaution they are recalling some viennas and cold meats.
We proactively manage food safety but as an added precaution, given the Dept of Health's announcement on the source of the Listeriosis outbreak, we're recalling some viennas & cold meats. Anyone with products listed here: https://t.co/zR0bBPNllX, please return for a full refund.— Woolworths SA (@WOOLWORTHS_SA) March 4, 2018
"Woolworths has a team of food scientists and technologists who proactively manage food safety," it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Tiger Brands said it would set up a 24-hour call centre to assist consumers who have questions about the recall of listeria-contaminated products.
The company's Germiston food production plant has been temporarily shut down in the wake of the scandal.
The Rainbow Chicken plant in Limpopo has also halted operations, for now.
Enterprise said in a statement that it "prioritises the health and safety of consumers above all else".
"We are committed to ensuring that all Enterprise products, as identified, will be recalled as part of the directive received," it said.
The United Nations has previously said South Africa's listeriosis outbreak is believed to be the largest-ever worldwide.
The disease mainly affects children and has a three-week incubation period, making it difficult to track.
Contamination in humans can result in flu-like illness, infection of the bloodstream and, in severe cases, infection of the brain which can prove fatal.