Giant food company Tiger Brands has temporarily closed the doors of its Pretoria factory after traces of the Listeria bacterium were found at the facility.
“Although the level detected was well within the range of government standards for the presence of Listeria, Tiger Brands has taken the precautionary measure of closing the factory and has instituted a product recall of all Snax products manufactured at the Pretoria factory with immediate effect,” said Tiger Brands in a statement.
Samples from this facility have since been sent for genome sequencing to establish the specific strain of Listeria.
On 3 March 2018, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the source of the outbreak had been traced to the Enterprise factories, a subsidiary of Tiger Brands.
Following this announcement, all processed cold meats from this factory such as polony, sausages and frankfurters were pulled off the shelves of supermarkets by the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) when it instituted an urgent recall of the products.
The food-borne disease, Listeriosis which was first identified in June 2017 in South Africa, has claimed 180 lives and to date, 940 Listeriosis cases have been reported in the country.
The food corporation has however, shied away from linking their products to any of the deaths recorded by the Health Department.
“The Department of Health has reported that people have lost their lives as a result of Listeriosis and according to the Minister of Health, 90% of these are as a result of LST6. Although no link has, as yet, been confirmed between the presence of LST6 at our Polokwane plant and the loss of life I deeply regret any loss of life and I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones,” said Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence Mac Dougall.
Tiger Brands said it remains unclear whether “this presence of LST6 can be said to have caused any illness or death” and testing in that regard is an ongoing process likely to take time. The food company said once a tangible link is determined it would take the necessary steps to address claims.