The South African deciduous fruit industry has responded with relief that the cause of the outbreak of deadly listeriosis in South Africa has been found.
After the news broke, Jacques du Preez of Hortgro was quick to react. “Our products have always been grown, handled and packed under strict internationally-acknowledged food safety protocols and conditions. A recent member-survey about facilities and products tested confirmed this,” he said in a statement.
The feeling of relief emanating from the statement is ringing out loud. A few weeks ago the industry had to react to social media statements that listeriosis was found on apples in South Africa. This turned out to be fake news – but Hortgro nevertheless felt it should reassure international and local consumers.
South Africa’s Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the government had narrowed down the sources of the deadly listeriosis outbreak to the facility of a processed meat supplier in Germiston in the north of the country.
This announcement went viral and this morning major supermarkets recalled certain processed meat products country-wide. It is a massive operation which will affect retailers and consumers around the country and is particularly serious for poorer consumers who rely on these products. The plant of the affected company was besieged this morning by angry consumers who have been buying supplies from the company.
It is a very serious matter which will result in stepped-up government action to ensure safety from all food suppliers, with fruit growers also likely to be affected. Hortgro’s assurances and tests will go a long way to reassure everyone.
It is reported that so far 180 people country-wide have died from listeriosis, which has sparked panic across the country. The fact that the source could not be found hurt all food suppliers in South Africa and they were all advised to test their products.
“Hortgro believes it is a relief that the source has been found. The deciduous fruit industry reiterates its previous statement that there is no connection between deciduous fruit and the listeria outbreak."
According to Du Preez, the industry takes food safety very seriously and in light of the outbreak, Hortgro urged packhouses and producers to undertake extra-precautionary measures and do extra testing on fresh fruit. So far, there were no positive listeria results reported.
“According to our knowledge listeria has never been found on fresh South African stone or pomefruit. South Africa has an outstanding reputation as a credible and reliable source of safe and excellent quality fresh fruit.”