Listeriosis: Outbreak traced to Enterprise Factory

The Listeriosis outbreak which has claimed almost 200 lives in South Africa so far, has been traced to an Enterprise Foods facility in Polokwane, according to Minister of Health, Aaron Motsoaledi.

He made the announcement on Sunday 4 March 2018.

“We can now conclude scientifically that the source of the present outbreak is the Enterprise Food production facility located in Polokwane,” Motsoaledi said.

A second facility in Germiston as well as a Rainbow Chicken facility in the Free State is also under suspicion. However, further tests are still needed as the sequence type was not known.

Retailers, and consumers who regularly buy products from these brands have been urged to clean fridges and meat slicers. Motsoaledi said that products should either be placed in plastic bags or in separate fridges – ahead of the recall.

“I’ve already emptied [out] my fridge this morning… I woke up my wife – [and told let’s] just take these things out,” he said.

“Any human being in the country who has these products in their fridge must take them out immediately.”

Which meats are at risk of Listeriosis?

According to Motsoaledi, processed meat products were the most likely culprit with polony being one of the main sources of the virus. Viennas, Russians, Frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats not typically cooked could also be affected.
Products will now have to be recalled.

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Enterprise Foods issued the following statement in response:

Enterprise Foods was alerted today (midday) about the need to recall identified Enterprise products.

We are all extremely concerned by Listeriosis – we all want to find the source or sources of Listeriosis, together with government.

As a company that prioritises the health and safety of consumers above all else, we are committed to ensuring that all Enterprise products, as identified, will be recalled as part of the directive received.

We are working very closely with the officials at present to conduct the process and will provide updates to the public on this matter.

The company proactively amplified its testing for Listeria and can confirm that we had found a low detection of a strain of listeria in some products on 14 February but the presence of the ST6 strain has not been confirmed by our tests.

The company has furthermore sent its samples to an external laboratory to test for the strain itself and should receive the results tomorrow.

We have been actively engaging the Department of Health and the NICD on our findings and have openly collaborated with the DoH and the NICD on these findings and the actions taken to date to actively address our findings.

We await confirmation of the strain testing to confirm the strain. In the meantime, we reaffirm our commitment to recall the identified Enterprise products as soon as possible.

People at high risk for listeriosis include:

• pregnant women
• neonates (first 28 days of life)
• very young infants
• elderly persons >65 years of age, and
• anyone with a weakened immune system (due to HIV infection, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, liver disease, people with transplants and those on immunosuppressive therapy such as oral corticosteroids, chemotherapy, or anti-TNF therapy for auto-immune disease).

Listeriosis – what to do with your Enterprise or Rainbow polony?

The foods linked to listeria are Enterprise Russians‚ Rainbow Chicken polony and Enterprise polony.

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Image: 123RF/ John Mcnamara

If you have any of the polony or sausage products named by the health ministry as possible culprits in South Africa’s listeriosis outbreak – especially if they’re opened – remove them from your fridge immediately to avoid contaminating other food.

And yes‚ you will be refunded for them‚ even if they are half eaten and you no longer have a receipt as proof of purchase.

At a media conference on Sunday‚ heath minister Aaron Motsoaledi named Enterprise’s food production plant in Polokwane‚ Limpopo‚ as the confirmed source of the unique strain of listeria which has caused the world’s biggest documented listeriosis outbreak‚ with 948 confirmed cases and 180 deaths.

At least 16 samples of food products collected from that plant tested positive for the ST6 strain‚ unique to the South African outbreak of listeriosis. And preliminary results show that other ready-to-eat products at Enterprise’s Germiston plant‚ as well as Rainbow Chickens’ (RCL) Wolwehoek plant‚ also contain Listeria‚ but the sequence type has yet to be confirmed.

Enterprise polony identified as source of listeria outbreak

Polony and products from the Enterprise factory in Polokwane‚ Limpopo‚ are the source of the world’s largest outbreak of listeria.

Responding‚ the National Consumer Commission has instructed Enterprise to urgently recall all its polony‚ smoked Russians and frankfurters and Rainbow has been instructed to do the same with its chicken viennas.

That includes immediately uplifting and quarantining the named products from it sales channels and notifying all their trading partners and the appropriate authorities “locally and internationally”.

In the meantime the commission has urged consumers who’ve bought the products to “quarantine” them in order to avoid cross-contamination‚ before returning them to the store for a refund‚ when the recall is announced. That’s because the listeria bacteria survives in fridges and an open pack of infected polony or viennas could contaminate other food stored nearby.

Don’t panic if you have eaten Enterprise polony

One factory has been blamed as the source of the world’s largest outbreak of listeriosis – the Enterprise polony factory in Polokwane‚ Limpopo.

Stores should refund consumers who returned the recalled products‚ partly consumed or not‚ even if they no longer had a receipt‚ said deputy consumer commissioner Thezi Mabuza.

Shortly after the media conference‚ Pick n Pay tweeted that it had begun removing “the products that may be linked to the listeriosis outbreak” from its stores.

“Customers who bought any Enterprise product (including Bokkie‚ Renown‚ Lifestyle‚ Mieliekip) or any Rainbow ready-to-eat products‚ eg polony or Russians‚ can return the product for a full refund.”

And later Checkers did the same: “We are taking swift action to remove products named by the Health Ministry as sources of listeria.

“You are most welcome to return any Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken cold meat products for a refund.”

Enterprise – part of the Tiger Brands stable – issued a statement on Sunday saying the company had “proactively amplified” its testing for listeria and could confirm that it found a “low detection” of a strain of listeria in some of its products on February 14.

But‚ the company added‚ “the presence of the ST6 strain has not been confirmed by our tests”.

“We have sent samples to an external laboratory to test for the strain and should receive the results tomorrow (Monday).

“We have been actively engaging the department of health and the NICD on our findings and have openly collaborated with them.

“We await confirmation of the strain… In the meantime‚ we reaffirm our commitment to recall the identified Enterprise products as soon as possible.”

Enterprise’s slogan is “Trusted quality since 1917”.

What is Listeriosis?

According to Food Safety, Listeria is a bacterium found in soil, water and vegetation. It can also occur in some animals, including poultry and cattle. Raw milk and foods made from raw milk can also carry the bacteria.


People should seek medical attention if they experience the following symptoms:

• Fever
• Stiff neck
• Confusion
• General weakness
• Vomiting (sometimes preceded by diarrhoea)

See if you potentially have Listeria.


The majority of people infected by Listeria recover within seven days. However, those with a compromised immune system, older adults, infants or pregnant women require urgent medical care – treatment involves either a course of antibiotics or fluids through an IV drip.

The treatment of Listeriosis is usually symptomatic and depends on the severity of the disease. If your infection is severe, antibiotics may be recommended.

Home remedies include:

• Plenty of clear fluids such as water and tea
• The BRAT diet (bananas, rice, apple sauce, toast) and other bland foods that won’t irritate the stomach
• Bed rest


Do not drink raw (unpasteurized) milk. Also, be careful of foods that contain raw milk.
Practice good hygiene in the kitchen. Wash your hands regularly, and make sure cutting boards, cutlery and crockery are cleaned properly.
Thoroughly cook animal foods such as meat, poultry or fish. Rather overcook than undercook.
Keep an eye on the expiry dates of perishable foods. Consume as soon as possible.

Read more about the dangers of food-borne illnesses.

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