Listeriosis South Africa

Listeriosis in a petri-dish – Photo: Cabriolet2008 / Flickr

Scientists ‘concerned’ over listeriosis in THESE provinces

The study was prompted by the 2017 listeriosis outbreak which killed 216 people and saw more than a thousand others being infected

Listeriosis South Africa

Listeriosis in a petri-dish – Photo: Cabriolet2008 / Flickr

Scientists from the University of Pretoria are now sounding the alarm over the presence of Listeria monocytogenes that were found in beef and beef products at some abattoirs and retailers in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and the North West province.

Listeria monocytogenes are a type of bacteria which cause listeriosis, a foodborne illness. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) Listeriosis is particularly dangerous for pregnant women, the elderly or individuals with a weakened immune system, such as people with immuno-compromised status due to HIV, leukaemia, cancer, kidney transplant and steroid therapy.


Research by the University of Pretoria’s Faculty of Veterinary Science and the Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute (ARC-OVI) found that 4.6% of chilled carcasses sampled at seven abattoirs in one of the provinces were contaminated with the bacteria.

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“Processed foods become contaminated by contact with equipment, the handling of raw products, or from post-processing settings in which the pathogen can survive despite the routine use of disinfectants,” said Dr Rebone Moerane, Head of UP’s Department of Production Animal Studies.

Moerane added that due to the potential contamination during slaughter, carcasses can become contaminated, leading to contaminated meat and meat products.

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Laboratory-confirmed cases of listeriosis in South Africa during the mid-2017 outbreak were just over 1060, with Gauteng accounting for the lion’s share of the cases at 58%, followed by the Western Cape with 13%. At least 216 people died from the disease during that period.

The disease was traced back to a Enterprise processed meats factory in Polokwane. Tiger Brands, which owned Enterprise at the time, saw a dramatic dip in its stock value on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE). Added to the controversy was the fact that its CEO Lawrence MacDougall refused to apologise for the outbreak, mantaining that there is no link between any of the deaths and their products.

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