By FRANCINA PHIRI and REBECCA MUSHOTA -
ZAMBIA and three other neighbouring countries have banned imports of processed meat products from South Africa after a deadly listeria outbreak was linked to a factory in that country.
Mozambique, Namibia and Botswana also issued a similar ban as health alert intensified across the southern region, with chain-stores operating in Zambia being directed to recall their ready-to-eat meat products.
Listeria has so far claimed 180 lives in South Africa.
Reuters reported yesterday that the three neighbouring countries also slapped an immediate ban on importations from South Africa.
Announcing the ban at a Press briefing in Lusaka yesterday, Health Minister Chitalu Chilufya said all meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables from South Africa have been banned.
“Government has placed an immediate temporary ban on meat, dairy, fruits and vegetables from South Africa in order to prevent the disease (listeria) from spreading to Zambia,” Dr Chilufya said.
The ministry had also engaged management at Pick n Pay and Shoprite to ensure that all risky foods were removed from their shelves.
Authorities have also been directed to seize and destroy any risky products coming from South Africa and increase surveillance of food imports.
“In South Africa, 85 per cent of patients interviewed said they consumed ready to eat meat products of which polony was the most common, followed by viennas, sausages and other cold meats,” Dr Chilufya said.
He said the companies cited so far were Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken facility.
And Shoprite has said it removed all affected Enterprise and Rainbow brands from their shelves on Sunday following a notice of recall.
According to a statement issued yesterday by Shoprite’s media team, customers affected could return the affected products, purchased recently.
The company said its cold meats, sold under the Housebrand, Ritebrand and Farmer’s Deli were not affected by recall notices that have been served on Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken.
“The customers’ health and safety, are a main focus for the retailer and that it is relieved that sources of the outbreak has been identified so that consumers now have some peace of mind about their perishable food purchases,” the statement said.
Earlier, Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Emmanuel Mwamba called on a South African retail chain-stores operating in Zambia to recall the ready-to-eat meat.
He said the chain stores should emulate measures put in place by the South African government to recall cold and meat products from retail chain stores nationally.
This is according to a statement issued yesterday by First Secretary for Press at the Zambian Embassy in South Africa Naomi Nyawali.
The Zambian Mission in Pretoria recently requested the South African government to put precautionary health measures in place to ensure that all its food exports to Zambia were free of a food borne disease.
South Africa is Zambia’s second largest trade partner following a number of South African business entities operating in Zambia.
Meanwhile, CNN reports that South Africa’s health ministry is warning consumers to avoid “all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat” after tracing the source of the deadly listeria outbreak to a sausage meat product.
“As of 02 March 2018, a total of laboratory-confirmed cases have risen to 948, still counting from January 2017,” Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi said on Sunday in remarks published on the website for South Africa’s National Institute of Communicable Diseases. “Of these 948, a total 659 patients have been traced and 180 of them have unfortunately died.”
Officials have identified a meat product known as “polony” from the Enterprise Food-Production facility in Polokwane in South Africa as the source of the outbreak, Motsoaledi said.
In a statement posted to its Twitter account, Enterprise said it was working with all relevant authorities to recall its products.
Listeria bacteria may cause fever and diarrhea – just like other foodborne bugs – but certain people are at greatly increased risk: the elderly, people with a weak immune system, pregnant women and their newborns.
Pregnant women are 10 times more likely than other people to become infected, and the bacteria can be passed on to the developing fetus, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. The infection can cause miscarriages, stillbirths and premature labour. -