Basic education cautions parents concerning listeriosis contaminated products


Zodidi Mhlana

JOHANNESBURG- Basic education department on Monday warned parents to monitor food that is sold to their children in schools in a bid to avoid any listeriosis contaminated products.

The department has assured parents and members of the public that food used as part of the National School Nutrition Programme in schools contains no processed meat products such as Polony, Russians and Viennas.

“The food served to over nine million learners daily as part of the NSNP is safe and excludes these types of meat products. However, we would like parents and the greater school community to remain vigilant as these food items often form part of packed lunches or are sold to learners by external food vendors outside of schools or at tuckshops. We urge parents to heed the advice from Health Minister Motsoaledi when preparing lunch boxes for their children to ensure that it contains no food items that may carry listeriosis. The Department of Health advises members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat. 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 or retail,” Basic education department spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga said.

This comes after Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Sunday announced that processed food manufacturers Enterprise, a division of Tiger Brands, and Rainbow Chicken Limited had been issued with safety recall notices following a listeriosis outbreak.

The Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane in Limpopo had been identified as the source of the current listeriosis outbreak. Production at Rainbow chicken factories in Germiston and the Free State have also been halted due to the outbreak.

At least 180 people have died due to the outbreak, with a total of 948 cases having been confirmed.

Mhlanga urged parents to take their children to healthcare centres if they are showing symptoms associated with listeriosis.

“We encourage teachers and parents to report to the nearest health care facility if learners present with diarrhoea, headache, neck stiffness, confusion, loss of balance and flu-like symptoms. In instances where children are involved it is better to be safe than sorry as this is a preventable and treatable disease,” Mhlanga said.

Meanwhile, some of the country’s retailers including Pick n Pay, Shoprite and Checkers have promised consumers a full refund if they return Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken Limited cold meat products.

In a statement, David North, Group Executive, Strategy and Corporate Affairs, Pick n Pay Stores said: “The safety of customers is always our top concern. Any customer who is concerned that they may have bought a ready-to-eat meat product linked to the outbreak can return it to our stores for a full refund.”

The companies have since withdrawn all products from the manufacturing sites identified by the department.