As of 2 March 2018, a total of laboratory-confirmed cases have risen to 948, still counting from January 2017. Of these 948, a total 659 patients have been traced
and 180 of them have unfortunately died. This constitutes 27% case fatality rate.
“On Friday 12th January, nine children under the age of 5 years presented to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital with febrile gastro-enteritis. The paediatrician suspected foodborne disease, including listeriosis, as a possible cause. The environmental health practitioners (EHPs) were informed and on the same day visited the crèche, and obtained samples from two unrelated polony brands(manufactured by Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken Limited (RCL) respectively) and submitted these to the laboratory for testing.
Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from stool collected from one of the ill children, and from both of the polony specimens collected from the crèche. These isolates were sent to the NICD Centre for Enteric Diseases, and underwent whole genome sequencing and genomic analysis. The ST6 sequence type was confirmed on all three isolates on Saturday 27th January. Remember that in the last press conference I informed you that from clinical isolates obtained from patients (patient blood), 9 sequence types of Listeria monocytogenes were isolated and 91% were of sequence type 6 (ST6). We had then concluded that time that this outbreak is driven by ST6.
I wish to further remind you that we had then taken a decision to visit all food-processing sites, food-packaging sites, as well as food production sites where possible.
Following the lead from the tests performed on these children from Soweto and the food they had ingested, the EHPs (Environmental Health Practitioners), together with the NICD and DAFF representatives, accompanied by 3 technical advisors from the World Health Organisation in Geneva, visited a food-production site in Polokwane and conducted an extensive food product and environmental sampling.
Listeria monocytogenes was isolated from over 30% of the environmental samples collected from this site, which happens to be the Enterprise factory in Polokwane.
To conclude the investigation, whole genome sequencing analysis was performed from this Enterprise factory and the results became available midnight or last night. The outbreak strain, ST6, was confirmed in at least 16 environmental samples collected from this Enterprise facility.
Additionally, preliminary results show that several ready-to-eat processed meat products from the Enterprise facility located in Germiston contain L. monocytogenes, but the sequence type is not known as yet.
Investigation of the RCL Wolwehoek production facility is also underway. Polony products have tested positive for L. monocytogenes, but the sequence types of the isolates are NOT ST6. However, such contamination of ready-to-eat processed meat products constitutes a health risk. Also, over 10% of environmental samples collected by EHPs at this facility have tested positive for L. monocytogenes. The sequence types of these isolates are not known as yet.”
Tiger Brands, on behalf of its division Enterprise Foods, has committed to recalling products that are identified with listeriosis outbreak, but are conducting its own tests as well.
This follows an announcement by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on Sunday that the source of the present outbreak was an Enterprise facility in Polokwane.
Listeria has been traced to another Enterprise facility in Germiston on the East Rand, and a Rainbow chicken facility in the Free State, but further tests were needed as the sequence type was not yet known.
“As a company that 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. We are working very closely with the officials at present to conduct the process and will provide updates to the public on this matter,” Tiger Brands spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said in a statement.
“The company proactively amplified its testing for listeria and can confirm that we had found a low detection of a strain of listeria in some products on 14 February but the presence of the ST6 strain [the outbreak strain] has not been confirmed by our tests.
“The company has furthermore sent its samples to an external laboratory to test for the strain itself and should receive the results tomorrow [Monday].”
Naicker said the company has been working with the department of health and the NICD on its own findings.
“We await confirmation of the strain testing to confirm the strain. In the meantime, we reaffirm our commitment to recall the identified Enterprise products as soon as possible.”
Motsoaledi said the National Consumer Commission has issued safety recall notices to the affected manufacturers and facilities, and the companies are now responsible for coming up with the recall plan.
The plan must be sufficient to cover their entire distribution chain, and the facilities will also have to resource and pay for the implementation.
He said while polony was a definite source, other products such as Viennas, Russians, Frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats not typically cooked could also be affected due to the risk of cross contamination.
Pregnant women, neonates, elderly people and anyone with weakened systems should “not go near” these products.
Motsoaledi said retailers must clean their fridges, meat slicers, and either remove the ready-to-eat meat products or place them in plastic bags in separate fridges – ahead of the recall.
“Any human being in the country who has these products in their fridge must take them out immediately.”
Motsoaledi said statistics on March 2 show that the outbreak has claimed about 180 lives and 948 laboratory-confirmed cases had been reported to the NICD.
Listeria is a bacterium that is naturally found in the environment – it commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the faeces of some animals. It can contaminate a wide variety of food types, including meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurised and pasteurised), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products.
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 4, 2018