The confirmation of the source of last year’s outbreak of #Listeriosis in our country which has been the cause of 180 deaths is at once a relief and demands answers to more questions.
There has been some criticism of the national department of health @healthZA from relatives of some of those who have died since the outbreak. @healthZA appeared to have moved very quickly to bring the final result of the testing done on products produced at factories in Polokwane, Germiston and the Free State to the public as soon as possible after they were finalised on Saturday night.
It’s worth asking what would have been a world class response time in getting to the source of the outbreak since the first signs of Listoriosis? It doesn’t help us in any way that the World Health Organisation confirms that ours has been the biggest outbreak of this severe form of Listeriosis ever recorded.
What measures were already in place within our national, provincial and local government administrations to monitor food production and ensure that health standards were being maintained? And, once the first deaths were reported, what additional steps were taken to ensure that the cause of the outbreak could be ascertained sooner rather than later?
Be that as it may, the corporate food industry deserves excoriation for this slip. @healthZA says companies in the meat processing sector refused to provide samples for microbiology testing as requested. This is outrageous.
Based on StatsSA figures that 12.6% of SA’s population – 7 million people – live with HIV or a compromised immune system, poor food quality that causes listeriosis is like writing an entire community a premature death certificate. Those with heart & other non-communicable diseases are in the same boat.
So, many people potentially are affected – poor & rich, whether you buy your R2 sliced polony at a corner shop or get hopelessly overpriced salami at your local Woolies.
(Disclaimer: In a moment of weakness, I snuck a packet of Woolies cheese Viennas into my shopping basket two weeks ago. As an immuno-compromised person as a result of my heart transplant medication, I obviously must watch carefully that no negative symptoms emerge from that singularly silly act.)
It’s a disgusting situation & apart from the expected bottom line impact on a company like Tiger Brands & its Enterprise Foods division, the health department should lay charges against corporate executives who missed this or may even have been guilty of consciously ignoring lapses in quality control.
These corporates have huge financial, research and management resources to ensure that their processes adhere to required quality standards and are safe for the public who consume their products. Those resources must also be put to good use when the need arises to review processes the instant this outbreak occurred.
Even if a factory owner in this sector is relatively assured as a result of own internal processes, and even if the outbreak is a limited one occurring on the other side of the country or the class divide which a business is serving, there is surely a social and commercial imperative to go back and triple check one’s own operations to further ensure that all is okay.
That’s the business they are in, that’s the business they’re experts at. And, in a context where someone in the industry may be dumping infected products on the market, a factory owner who has again verified its production processes can even use that knowledge as a marketing tool to attract further market share.
Instead, it seems they did very little to keep South Africans safe or certainly not enough.