Listeriosis: Now What?

Following recent announcements made by the Department of Health regarding South Africa’s devastating listeriosis outbreak, many consumers have been left with more questions than answers. Which products are being recalled? What should I do with the products I bought? How do I prevent any further contamination? We answer these questions and more below.


The Recall

On Sunday 4 March, the Department announced an official recall of two major cold meat brands – Enterprise Foods (a division of Tiger Brands)  and Rainbow Chicken (a division of RCL Foods). Woolworths has also recalled several of its Woolworths branded products since many of their meat products are produced by Enterprise Foods. The recall came into effect on Monday 5 March across the country. Meanwhile, the Department has also advised members of the public to avoid all processed meat products (such as cold meats, viennas, sausages and pates) until further notice. “While we know that polony is definitely implicated there is a risk of cross-contamination of other ready-to-eat processed meat products, either at production, distribution or retail.” Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi told media.

The following products have been recalled (click on the images to enlarge):




What You Should Do

The first thing you need to do is to remove any of the above brands from your fridge immediately. Place the affected products in a plastic bag and keep it stored separately from any other food products. You can then return the product to the store where you originally bought it from. You don’t need to provide a purchase slip and the store must take back the product even when it has been opened. You will be given a full refund.

NOTE: Do NOT throw affected products in the bin. Since it could possibly be contaminated, it is viewed as a hazardous product. If you get caught disposing of the products by simply putting it in the trash, you could be fined. If you are unable to return the product to the retailer you bought it from, you can contact your local municipality for assistance.

Next, ensure you clean all kitchen surfaces as well as the entire fridge. First clean the surfaces with warm water and soap. Following this,  add one teaspoon of unscented bleach to about a litre of water. Flood the surface with the bleach solution and leave to stand for 10 minutes. This will ensure the surface is properly disinfected. Also ensure you clean your microwave, oven and stove in the same way.

Can I Prevent Listeria Contamination?

Yes, you can. By practicing simple hygiene and cooking methods at all times, you’ll limit the chances of listeria contamination in your home.

  • Cook food thoroughly. The listeria bacterium is killed at temperatures above 70’C.
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
  • When preparing food, keep raw and cooked ingredients separate. Also avoid mixing utensils and surfaces when preparing food.
  • Ensure any leftover food is in a sealing container that doesn’t leak before placing it in the fridge.
  • Use ready-to-eat, pre-cooked and leftover food as soon as possible.
  • Clean up spills in your fridge immediately, especially juices from raw foods and processed products.
  • Clean the entire inside and outside of your fridge at least once a month. Wipe down the inside walls of the fridge with warm water and bleach solution.
  • Always clean food preparation surfaces properly with warm, soapy water.
  • Wash cutting boards properly after use and soak in a bleach water solution if needed.
  • Keep dish cloths, towels and fabric grocery bags clean by washing them often.
  • Wash your hands properly with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling any food.

Should you be concerned about a possible listeriosis infection, you should see your doctor immediately. Look out for any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Stiff Neck
  • Confusion
  • General Weakness
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhoea

For the latest on the listeriosis outbreak, you can visit the National Health Laboratory Service’s website.

You can also read Minister Motsoaledi’s full statement on the source of the listeriosis outbreak here.

Sources: Nation Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) | Department of Health | National Health Laboratory Service