Red Meat Industry Forum comment on Listeriosis Outbreak In South Africa

Press release issued by: Dave Ford Chairman Red Meat Industry Forum and Nadine Naylor General Manager South African Meat Processors Association – On behalf of the Red Meat Industry

The RMIF has noted with concern the media statement released by the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on 4 March 2018 which essentially concluded that the present outbreak was traced to a food production facility in Polokwane whilst raising further concerns about a facility in Germiston.

Unfortunately the aforesaid media release is devoid of detail and this lack of detail has resulted in misinformation which is not only detrimental to the Consumer, but also the South African Red Meat Industry. In this regard, the average Consumer is being led into a Listeria hysteria which is having unfortunate consequences for families who rely on processed meat as their source of protein.

The RMIF and its member organizations, including the South African Meat Processors Association (SAMPA), representing the meat processing and related sectors, are deeply concerned that the entire processed meat industry has been implicated without justification.

The devastating consequences emanating from the media coverage thus far as a result of the Minister’s media release has had far reaching and catastrophic impact on the processed meat industry and the Red Meat Industry in its entirety.

Consequently the RMIF has requested all relevant information relating to the tests conducted by the National Department of Health and the NICD as referred to in the media release to determine the exact nature and ambit of the testing conducted.

The RMIF had to drag Government to Court on several occasions to implement Independent Meat Inspection Services, which should have been adopted some 18 years ago in terms of the Meat Safety Act, 2000.

It was only under the threat of contempt of Court did Government exceed to the RMIF’s demands to implement Independent Meat Inspection Services.

The outbreak has emphasized the responsibility of the Red Meat Industry together with other food industries to provide for proper and improved hygiene during the production, processing, packing and preparation of red meat and red meat products.

Whilst Industry is responsible for producing food that is safe for human consumption, it is also the responsibility of Consumers not to content themselves, that the only contamination can come from the facilities implicated, but to adopt basic hygienic practices when buying, transporting food home, preparing and storing food to protect their health and to ensure that cross contamination does not occur between cooked and raw products or from human hands and equipment.

Listeria presents a particular concern in respect to food handling, because it can multiply at refrigerator temperatures. During the processing of livestock to meat at the abattoir, particular attention is given to slaughter procedures, personnel hygiene and sterilization of equipment to minimize bacterial contamination during this process.

It is therefore imperative that Consumers ensure that the meat they purchase is sourced only from registered abattoirs that have an Independent Meat Inspection Service and that once purchased the cold chain is maintained at all times; as well as to avoid eating raw or under cooked meat products.

The RMIF also urges for close cooperation between the respective departments in establishing food safety guidelines and to utilize the opportunities to interact with Industry on the forums provided.

The World Health Organization has five keys to food safety:

Keep clean. Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation.

  • Separate raw and cooked food.

If you are handling or storing raw food, do not touch already cooked food unless you have already washed your hands and food preparation utensils.

Ensure that working surfaces are cleaned before using for different food types.

  • Cook food thoroughly.

Food that does not usually need cooking before eating should be washed thoroughly with clean running water. Keep food at safe temperatures. Use safe water for domestic use at all times or boil before use.