The abattoir owned by Sovereign Foods has been cleared so far of causing the listeria monocytogenes bacteria responsible for 61 deaths – but it will remain closed until it has cleaned up its act.
“At this juncture, we cannot conclude that the abattoir called Sovereign Foods is the source of the present outbreak,” Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said yesterday.
“The abattoir-related listeria monocytogenes was subjected to whole genome sequencing. All the samples collected from the food and environment at the abattoir have up to so far failed to pick up the outbreak strain ST6. However, other strains with potential to cause disease were picked up, hence the prohibition notice for public health safety.”
Motsoaledi said it was in the best interest of public health the abattoir was prohibited from further preparing food pending the cleaning of the environment and meeting certain conditions given to them.
“What concerns us more at this moment is that this particular abattoir was closed two months ago by the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries following the discovery of unhygienic conditions and practices, which of course were not necessarily related to listeria,” Motsoaledi said.
“These were preceded by environmental health investigations which were conducted earlier in July 2017 by Tshwane metropolitan municipality, the findings of which were existence of conditions that constitute a nuisance in the facility. These led to delayed issuance of certificate of acceptability at the time until such time that the corrective measures were implemented.”
The head of centre for enteric diseases at the NICD, Dr Juno Thomas, said listeria was not transmitted from person to person. But an infected pregnant mother can transmit the infection to her unborn child.
Food safety expert Dr Lucia Anelich noted there was a risk of miscarriage, the baby being stillborn, or being born preterm.