LOCAL retailers including the franchises of South African retail giants, Shoprite and Pick ‘n Pay, were this week forced to remove from their shelves all meat products believed to have traces of the killer listeria bacteria.
The Minister of Health, Nkaku Kabi, ordered the retail outlets to get rid of the meat products including chickens, polony and sausages which were ordered from South African companies, Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken Products.
This followed a statement on Sunday by his South African counterpart, Aaron Motsoaledi, that the spread of bacteria which causes the deadly listeriosis disease had been traced to the two companies’ factories in Polokwane and Germiston as well as Wolwehoek in South Africa.
The bacteria causes flu-like symptoms, nausea, diarrhoea and it also infects the blood stream and the brain.
Although there have not been any reported cases of the disease in Lesotho, 948 reported cases have been reported in South Africa since January 2017. These have resulted in 180 deaths.
The bacteria is commonly found in raw foods such as meat, cheese, sea foods and vegetables that have been contaminated by soil and water carrying the bacteria. The spread of the bacteria is easily preventable through basic hygiene practices that include washing food before preparation.
Addressing the media in Maseru this week, Mr Kabi, said the ministry had ordered supermarkets to immediately remove products to avoid its spread.
He said the ministry’s inspectors would ensure adherence by retailers.
“We will also examine imported foods for the bacteria and we are still working with the Ministry of Health in South Africa to control the bacteria,” Mr Kabi said.
He said although there were no reported cases of listeriosis in the country, the public had been implored not to consume the specified foods as a precaution until further notice.
Mr Kabi said since the outbreak of the disease last year, the department of Environmental Health had been training health service providers about its signs and symptoms and how to treat patients.
Following the government order, Shoprite immediately announced that it had removed all the meat products from Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken.
This publication visited some shops in Maseru this week and observed that the products had been removed from the shelves in compliance with the ministry’s directive.
Shoprite said it was relieved that definite sources of the outbreak had been identified and consumers could “now have some peace of mind about their food purchase.” Shoprite said it would assist the ministry of health to prevent the outbreak of listeriosis.
The retail outlet also said it had a well-developed risk assessment programme in place to ensure adherence to the food safety and hygiene protocols in its supermarkets.