The outbreak of listeriosis has been traced to an Enterprise Foods facility in Polokwane, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Sunday.
"We can now conclude scientifically that the source of the present outbreak is the Enterprise Food production facility located in Polokwane," he said at the offices of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) in Johannesburg.
Listeria has been traced to another Enterprise facility in Germiston on the East Rand, and a Rainbow chicken facility in the Free State, but further tests were needed as the sequence type was not yet known.
The National Consumer Commission has issued safety recall notices to those manufacturers and facilities, and the companies are now responsible for coming up with the recall plan.
The plan must be sufficient to cover their entire distribution chain, and the facilities will also have to resource and pay for the implementation.
Motsoaledi said several children presented with gastroenteritis in Soweto earlier in the week. Tests were done, and it was found that they had listeriosis.The strain they were affected with, which was the same for the larger outbreak, was traced to Enterprise's Polokwane facility.
Motsoaledi said statistics on March 2 show that the outbreak has claimed about 180 lives and 948 laboratory-confirmed cases had been reported to the NICD.
He said while polony was a definite source, other products such as Viennas, Russians, Frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats not typically cooked could also be affected due to the risk of cross contamination.
Pregnant women, neonates, elderly people and anyone with weakened systems should "not go near" these products.
Motsoaledi said retailers must clean their fridges, meat slicers, and either remove the ready-to-eat meat products or place them in plastic bags in separate fridges - ahead of the recall.
"I've already emptied [out] my fridge this morning... I woke up my wife - [and told let's] just take these things out," he said. "Any human being in the country who has these products in their fridge must take them out immediately."
Listeria is a bacterium that is naturally found in the environment - it commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the faeces of some animals. It can contaminate a wide variety of food types, including meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurised and pasteurised), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products.