RCL Foods said in a statement on Friday that no trace of the listeria strain responsible for the more than 1 000 infections that have recently hit the country was found in the Free State polony facility of its subsidiary Rainbow.
The company said tests conducted by an independent laboratory in France showed the facility to be clear of the ST6 strain which has so far claimed 180 lives, 79 of which were reportedly infants. RCL Foods said the laboratory tested the plant against world class standards.
At the beginning of March Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi said the department traced the strain back to Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane facility.
This prompted a recall of Enterprise Foods’ processed meat products from the shelves of various South African supermarkets and rocked parent company Tiger Brands’ reputation. Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall distanced the company from the deaths resulting from the latest infections.
“Rainbow polony products from the Wolwehoek plant were recalled as a precautionary measure and the plant has been temporarily closed. The recall does not affect any other RCL Foods facilities or products, including fresh and frozen Rainbow Chicken,” the company said.
Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said the department has not read the statement and is not yet able to comment.
“More than a decade ago we embarked on a process to implement internationally recognised and independently verified quality and food safety systems such as FSSC – Food Safety System Certification – 22000 and ISO 22000 in our facilities,” RCL Foods said.
Listeriosis grows in various places including food and soil. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases warns that those most vulnerable to listeriosis include infants, immunocompromised adults, the elderly, pregnant women and people living with HIV.
The institute has warned against the consumption of the township fast food item kota, which includes polony and Russians.
It has also expressed concern that recent economic data found cash-strapped households are relying more on processed meats for their protein intake, as other meat products have become more expensive.
Symptoms of listeriosis include nausea, dizziness, fever, stiffness and feeling disorientated.— Fin24