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​Supermarkets rush to pull foods implicated in Listeriosis outbreak

Retailers have begun desperately clearing their shelves of Enterprise products after health minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that one of the food manufacturer’s plants was the source of the current listeriosis outbreak.

Pick n Pay as well as shops under its Boxer brand, have begun pulling the products, as have all supermarkets in the Shoprite group – which includes the Shoprite, Checkers and OK brands.

A recall of Enterprise Food products, which is a subsidiary of Tiger Brands, was initiated on Sunday, after its Polokwane plant was confirmed as the source of the outbreak that has claimed 180 lives.

Along with the Polokwane facility, products manufactured at its Germiston plant, as well as products from another food manufacturer, Rainbow Chickens Limited (RCL), have been recalled. The Rainbow facility is located at Wolwehoek, near Sasolburg.

“Pick n Pay has acted immediately to withdraw all products from the manufacturing sites identified by the Department of Health,” said Pick n Pay’s group executive of strategy and corporate affairs, David North.

All Enterprise products – including the Bokkie, Renown, Lifestyle and Mieliekip brands- as well as all ready-to-eat products such as polony and russian sausages manufactured at the Rainbow facility in Sasolburg, are urgently being withdrawn, North said in a statement.

As a precaution, Pick n Pay branded chicken polony, which is manufactured by Rainbow, is also being withdrawn.

Customers who are concerned that they have bought a ready-to-eat meat product linked to the outbreak are being offered a full refund North said.

Similarly the Shoprite group has begun pulling Rainbow and Enterprise products off its supermarket shelves and is offering customers refunds for the affected items. It has also enhanced its monitoring of its store food preparation areas to detect if a risk of Listeria was present, the company said in a statement.

Navashnee Naicker, spokesperson for Tiger Brands, the owner of Enterprise Foods, confirmed that both its Polokwane manufacturing facility, as well as its Germiston plant, have both been shut down.

“The company is being highly cautious and has closed both facilities,” Naiker said.

A specific strain – known as ST6 – of the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria which causes listeriosis, has been behind the outbreak.

Laboratory test results, which came in at midnight on Saturday, traced the strain back to the Polokwane plant, Motsoaledi said at a press conference.

Although the ST6 strain has not yet been confirmed at Enterprises’ Germiston plant, preliminary results revealed that several ready-to-eat meats from the facility contained listeria monocytogenes.

Similarly the ST6 strain has not yet been confirmed at Rainbow’s Sasolburg plant but its polony products have tested positive for listeria monocytogenes.

Naicker said the company was “extremely concerned” by the Listeriosis outbreak. It had been conducting its own tests, and detected a strain of listeria in some of its products on February 14. It had not however confirmed the presence of ST6 in its own tests, the results of which are expected on Monday.

In a statement RCL Foods said that it was suspending the production of all its Rainbow polony branded products, at its Wolwehoek plant, as well as recalling the products from its entire customer base.

It highlighted that this was despite the fact that the specific strain of the pathogen had not been traced to the Wolwehoek facility.

The recall was done under the provisions of the consumer protection Act, and will be monitored by the national consumer commission (NCC), which reports to the department of trade and industry (DTI). The recall will affect the manufacturers’ entire distribution chains, both domestic and international.

“Given the findings, it was clear that there has been a drop in the quality of standards within the manufacturing process,” said Lionel October, the director general of the DTI.

It would be the responsibility of the companies to develop and pay for a recall plan to ensure all the products are removed throughout the distribution chain, October said.

It was not clear how long the recall process would take according to Theziwe Mabuza, deputy commissioner at the NCC.

“It is for us to sit down with the company, estimate the number of products and what is at stake and then we work out a plan, in terms of the recall, as well as in terms of the disposal of the products,” she told the Mail & Guardian.

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Lynley Donnelly
Lynley Donnelly
Lynley is a senior business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. But she has covered everything from social justice to general news to parliament - with the occasional segue into fashion and arts. She keeps coming to work because she loves stories, especially the kind that help people make sense of their world.

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