While the number of listeriosis cases has declined since the source was discovered, production at implicated factories is still on pause as an extensive revision of production processes and safety procedures is conducted.
In March Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the source of the outbreak of listeriosis was traced to an Enterprise facility in Limpopo and that production at the factory had been halted and a nationwide recall of its food products rolled out.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) the number of reported cases of listeriosis per week has declined since the implicated products were recalled on March 4, 2018.
The NICD said a total of 64 cases have been reported since March 5, 2018, which is an average of 6.4 cases a week in comparison to 249 cases that were reported for the 10-week period prior to the recall, an average of around 24.9 cases a week.
Furthermore, of the 1 033 laboratory confirmed cases that have been reported from January 1, 2017, to May 10, 2018, only six additional cases were reported during the period May 2 to 10, 2018.
The NICD also gave its latest update on the death toll caused by the bacteria, with the toll standing at 204 deaths.
Recall, destruction closely monitored
In an update on its work on the outbreak, the government said the Enterprise factories that produced the implicated products had now commenced with an extensive revision of their production processes and safety procedures.
“Implementation of their plans will be monitored by district officials with the support of the same inspection team to ensure adherence to national and international norms and standards regarding food safety,” the statement read.
Furthermore, the recall and destruction of implicated food products both within South Africa and internationally (those that were exported) has been closely monitored by the National Consumer Commission, the Department of Environmental Affairs and district environmental health practitioners in various municipalities.
Certificates of destruction have been received from national and international agencies.
The Department Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries continues to liaise with international trading partners to provide reassurance that the risk of Listeria is confined to recalled products, and that all implicated products are recalled and destroyed and that all important meat and products of animal origin continues to be monitored.
Meanwhile the environmental health services at district level are being strengthened through provision of intensive training in assessment of food safety at production facilities and appropriate specimen collection procedures for food and environmental swabs, government said.
The National Health Laboratory Service food testing capacity has also been strengthened through the employment of additional human resources, equipment and updated standard operating procedures, while specimen collection procedures have been refined.
Listeriosis is a bacterium found in soil, water and vegetation that contaminates food sources such as animal products and fresh produce.
Listeria can cause meningitis, which is an infection of the brain, and septicaemia, which is an infection of the blood stream. Both can be fatal, however, they are treatable with antibiotics.