The listeriosis outbreak update as of 20 April 2018 (previous update 20 February 2018)
The source of the listeriosis contamination had been identified as a processed meat (polony) from an Enterprise Factory, owned by Tiger Brands.
Since the recall of 4 March 2018, the rate of infections and deaths have reduced dramatically. This showed that the recall was effective in minimising further infections. However, the NICD has further shown that although the ST 6 serotype accounts for 92% of infections.
The remaining 8% of infections have at least 11 other strains of Listeria monocytogenes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has suggested that there may be a parallel outbreak in South Africa, meaning that although Enterprise Meats have caused 92% of the infections, 8% remains unidentified.
This means, that further investigations are still ongoing, and are not exclusive to the processed meats industry. After more than 5 months of investigation, 1019 (550) infections, 199 (36) Deaths (mostly new born babies) have been recorded, and seems to have slowed after the recall.
The Health Department investigators have indicated that the serotype ST6 is the most common serotype in this outbreak and further investigations are ongoing. The remaining 8% of infections now presents a concern.
Which of the possible sources is the cause?
We know that raw meats, especially chicken are almost always synonymous with the presence of L.mono. This is generally not a concern, as raw meats are not sterile and it would not be realistic to expect them to be, due to the nature of the product. This may not be a concern for the manufacturing industry, but could be a problem for home consumers.
We know from ongoing food poisoning outbreaks, that food safety in the home is always at an acceptable standard, and the potential for cross-contamination and poor hygiene is high. Therefore L.mono has a great opportunity to establish itself in the fridge and kitchen.
L.mono microbiological tests are not a standard test conducted in food service kitchens and is very rarely detected because of this.
Unfortunately, because of the potential from cross-contamination, a single source may well have transferred to the other known sources of food, such as processed meats, and dairy. A lesser known source, considering the warm summer months may well be ice-cream.
Rumours & Fake News
Please be careful what you hear and read on the news and on social media. Most especially regarding soil and water sources. Listeria does occur in soil and water, however this is only important in farming and not at home or in the natural environment. L.monocytogenes Is only a problem when it gets into foods, and is likely to contaminate fruits & vegetables.
Always wash your fruits and vegetables before eating. If you are pregnant , have a pregnant wife, small children, elderly or individuals that are ill and immune-compromised, seriously consider finding products such as vegetable sanitisers such as the below from Amazon.com or contact a local chemical supplier for a vegetable and fruit chemical sanitiser .