KwaZulu-Natal processed meat producer Eskort has called for calm amid Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi's announcement that processed meat was the source of South Africa's latest and worst listeriosis outbreak on record.
As of Sunday, the listeriosis outbreak has claimed 180 lives and hospitalised a further 1 000. The Polokwane operations of Tiger Brands' meat producer Enterprise Foods has been identified as the source of the latest outbreak.
The latest news has caused panic among consumers, leading them to dispose of processed meat products they have already purchased including polony, viennas, ham and cold meats.
The meat producer, which has been in operation in South Africa for 101 years, said its products are not manufactured in Polokwane in the Limpopo Province, where Motsoaledi identified the source of the latest outbreak.
"Eskort only has manufacturing facilities in Estcourt (KwaZulu-Natal) and Heidelberg (Gauteng), where all Eskort products are exclusively produced. Eskort continues to cooperate fully with the Department of Health and Agriculture and all tests on Eskort products have been confirmed as negative across the Eskort range of Russians, polony, viennas and bacon," said the producer.
The company said it subjects its products and facilities to strict standards as well as external independent maintenance.
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 warns against the consumption of the township fast food item kota, which includes polony and Russians.
The institute is also concerned as recent economic data has found that cash-strapped households are relying more on processed meats for their protein, as other meat products have become more expensive.
Listeriosis symptoms include nausea, dizziness, fever, stiffness and disorientation.