OPINION

Listeriosis: Industry stonewalled introduction of health regulations in 2014 - DA

Dean Macpherson says claim for culpability is now moving rapidly towards manufacturers

Listeriosis: Industry stonewalled introduction of health regulations in 2014

Today, in the Trade & Industry Portfolio Committee meeting, the National Regulator for Compulsory Standards (NRCS) dropped a bombshell when they revealed their attempt to develop regulatory standards in 2014 for the meat industry which were put on hold after industry players rejected proposals on levies to be paid by offenders.

In their presentation, the NRCS details how due to disagreements with the industry over the cost of levies to be paid to the NRCS to do mandatory testing, the plan was put on hold.

A ‘levy subcommittee’ comprising of members from manufacturers, retailers, the Consumer Goods Council, South African National Consumer Union and NRCS was subsequently set up to further deliberate and come top with a solution. No agreement was reached.

The subcommittee met with the DTI on 7 October 2014 where industry presented their own proposed self-regulation model. The NRCS again identified the risks emanating from their reports and insisted they should not be ignored.

In the end, only a ‘composition quality regulation’ with the Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries which referenced regulations regarding ‘classification, packing and marking of processed meat products’ was agreed to. Importantly, hygiene requirements were not part of this regulation.

We now know that for four years, manufacturers were aware of the hygiene risks that could lead to an outbreak of a disease like Listeriosis. The claim for culpability is now moving rapidly towards manufacturers for turning a blind eye to these risks which have claimed the lives of 180 people.

Earlier this week, the DA wrote to the Chairpersons of the Portfolio Committees on Trade and Industry; Health and Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, to request a joint sitting to get to the bottom of this deadly outbreak. It is now vital that this sitting be scheduled urgently.

The DA now looks forward to the joint sitting that will not only hold offenders to account but will recommend solutions to stop the further spread of diseases and regulation of the meat producers industry.

Statement issued by Dean Macpherson MP, DA Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry, 9 March 2018