The source of the ongoing outbreak of ‘Listeriosis’ – a food borne bacterial disease – in South Africa was announced in international news earlier this week.

The source is a factory operated by Enterprise Foods in Polokwane in Limpopo.  In light of this information and knowing that St Helena’s main imports are from South Africa, the Health Directorate is working closely with the main food importers of Enterprise processed meats (chilled or frozen).

Already, importers have been notified of products to be recalled through their suppliers in South Africa, consequently affected products will be removed from the outlet shelves if already in stock and safely disposed of.

The Health Directorate will continue to work with Food Business Operators to ensure that they are implementing and maintaining robust food management systems based on regulatory requirements and industry guidelines to ensure that products offered for sale are safe to eat.

Meanwhile, the Directorate advises consumers to remove any Enterprise ready-to-eat products from their fridges and place them in a plastic bag away from other products.  Keeping them among other products could cause cross contamination.  The product can be safely disposed of with normal household waste. You should ensure that it is secured so that it is protected from scavenging animals. It is strongly advised that all equipment used in the processing and storage of these products should be disinfected with diluted bleach.

What is Listeriosis?

Listeriosis is a rare infection caused by bacteria called listeria. It usually goes away on its own, but can cause serious problems to newborns, the elderly, pregnant women, persons with weak immunity such as HIV, diabetes, cancer, chronic liver or kidney disease.

It is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes and is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation. 

Furthermore, animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources.

The species Listeria monocytogens has been linked with the foodborne illness (Listeriosis) and is of great concern for the food industry. Listeria is unlike many other germs because it can grow even in the cold temperature of the refrigerator.  Listeria may be inactivated by heat treatments about 70⁰C with a contact time of at least two minutes.

How to avoid Listeriosis?

There are some simple things you can do to reduce your risk of getting Listeriosis:

Do

  • Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
  • Wash fruit and vegetables before eating them
  • Store ready-to-eat foods as recommended by the manufacturer
  • Make sure all hot food is steaming hot all the way through

Don’t

  • Eat food after its use-by-date, even if it looks and smells good

For further advice and guidance, please contact the Environmental Health Section on  Tel: 22500.

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 SHG
7 March 2018

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