South Africa’s health ministry has issued a warning for consumers to avoid “all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat” after a deadly listeria outbreak was traced to a sausage product.
Aaron Motsoaledi, Minister of Health, said in a statement published for South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases,
As of 02 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.
Authorities have identified a meat product called “polony,” from the Enterprise Food-Production facility in Polokwane in South Africa, as the cause of the listeria outbreak, Motsoaledi said.
For its part, Enterprise announced on Twitter that the company is working with officials to recall its products, CNN reports. “We have suspended operations at both Enterprise manufacturing facilities (Polokwane and Germiston) and have stopped supply to retailers,” Enterprise said.
Nine children under five years old were admitted to a hospital in Soweto, Johannesburg on January 12 with febrile gastroenteritis. Samples of polony were taken from the kids’ daycare center and tested. Those manufactured by Enterprise turned up positive for the listeria strain that was later found to be responsible for almost all the cases, Motsoaledi said.
“While we know that polony is definitely implicated, there is a risk of cross-contamination of other ready-to-eat processed meat products, either at production, distribution or retail,” the Health Minister said. “This is because Listeria on the exterior casing (packaging) of polony can be transferred to other products it comes into contact with, including viennas, russians, frankfurters, other sausages, and other ‘cold meat’ products that are typically not cooked before eating.”
Listeria causes fever and diarrhea, but the elderly, pregnant women, infants, and people with compromised immune systems are at a greater risk for more severe symptoms. In pregnant women, listeria can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and premature labor.