De­spite lis­te­rio­sis out­break, our food is safe

Pretoria News - - NEWS - JAMES MAHLOKWAE james.mahlok­wane@inl.co.za

THE Con­sumer Goods Coun­cil of South Africa has as­sured South Africans that nearly all food con­sumed was safe, de­spite a lis­te­rio­sis out­break that has killed 61 peo­ple since last year.

The food safety ex­ec­u­tive at the Con­sumer Goods Coun­cil of South Africa, Se­tati Mat­lou, said find­ing the source of lis­te­rio­sis kept them awake at night be­cause they wanted an­swers that would put South Africans at peace.

Mat­lou was speak­ing at a press brief­ing or­gan­ised by the Na­tional Press Club, dur­ing which sev­eral food in­dus­try role-play­ers had an op­por­tu­nity to high­light the role of the pri­vate sec­tor and lo­cal gov­ern­ment in com­bat­ing the dis­ease.

Mat­lou said en­vi­ron­men­tal health prac­ti­tion­ers played a huge role in the bat­tle to erad­i­cate the dis­ease. She said she was happy that most mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties were hir­ing more en­vi­ron­men­tal health prac­ti­tion­ers in gen­eral.

“Some­times it’s very dif­fi­cult to ex­plain mi­cro­bi­o­log­i­cal or­gan­isms and not make them all seem bad. Not all food con­tains bi­o­log­i­cal or­gan­isms that could cause dis­eases. Yo­ghurt is a good ex­am­ple of a food that has mi­cro-or­gan­isms but we can eat them.

“The sit­u­a­tion right now is that the source of the dis­ease (lis­te­rio­sis) is not yet iden­ti­fied.”

Linda Jack­son, from Food Fo­cus, said the pri­vate sec­tor, such as re­tail­ers, showed in­ter­est to self-reg­u­late on top of food safety reg­u­la­tions that al­ready ex­isted. She said South African re­tail­ers thought of them­selves as brands and needed to en­sure the safety of their con­sumers. She said re­tail­ers also au­dited their sup­pli­ers to en­sure that the man­u­fac­tur­ers de­liv­ered the safe prod­ucts they had promised.

“Al­though sup­pli­ers need to pass safety and hy­giene tests, re­tail­ers also au­dit them in var­i­ous ways, which in­clude unan­nounced au­dits.”

Jack­son said most South African re­tail­ers had their own set of rules that their sup­pli­ers needed to abide by. She added that ide­ally it would be prefer­able if they all had the same rules.

The panel, in­clud­ing Dr Re­quier Wait, of AgriSA, said South Africans needed to know that the coun­try’s food was safe and food sup­pli­ers did not want to hurt con­sumers.

Min­is­ter of Health Dr Aaron Mot­soaledi has said it was pos­si­ble that lis­te­rio­sis could come and go with­out the source be­ing iden­ti­fied, as had hap­pened with other dis­eases that have af­fected peo­ple around the world. But their source re­mained a mys­tery.

Jack­son said: “If it hap­pens that this dis­ease dis­ap­pears with­out the source be­ing iden­ti­fied, we should be con­cerned. How­ever, if that hap­pens, we should en­sure that we are bet­ter pre­pared to deal with it in the fu­ture.”

Jack­son said she was happy that there were aware­ness cam­paigns but she was not sat­is­fied. She said much more could still be done to com­bat any mis­in­for­ma­tion and to ad­vise the public of nu­mer­ous ways to min­imise the risk of con­tract­ing the dis­ease, which can be found in wa­ter, food and soil.

PIC­TURE: THOBILE MATHONSI/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY/ANA

Di­rec­tor at Food Fo­cus Linda Jack­son and Se­tati Mat­lou, food safety ex­ec­u­tive of the Food and Safety Ini­tia­tive at the Con­sumer Goods Coun­cil, dur­ing a press brief­ing or­gan­ised by the Na­tional Press Club.

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