Listeriosis outbreak 'like Life Esidimeni' - ANC MP

Minister Rob Davies says there is currently no national standard for processed meat

Listeriosis outbreak 'like Life Esidimeni'

29 March 2018

An ANC MP likened the listeriosis outbreak to the Life Esidimeni tragedy.

On Wednesday, the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and members of the portfolio committees of health and of trade and industry, were briefed on the listeriosis outbreak by representatives of these three departments.

Minster of Trade and Industry Rob Davies said he was "deeply troubled that people suffered illness and death in this unnecessary outbreak".

"We have yet to establish a common thread between the factory in Limpopo and the Free State [where the contaminated foodstuffs have been found]," he said. He added that this was extremely urgent.

"When we do uncover the common thread, we will be able to take action that will be much more decisive," he said.

He added that, currently there wasn't a national standard for processed meat.

Several MPs expressed their concerns and fears.

"I'm more scared than before," said ANC MP Nonhlanhla Ndaba, who serves on the health committee.

"This is another Life Esidimeni," she said referring to the tragedy in which the Gauteng Department of Health moved several psychiatric patients from Life Esidimeni to NGOs, which led to the death of 144 patients.

Davies said it was not comparable and added that, if the government tried to hide the abnormal incidences of listeria, they would have been in a Life Esidimeni situation.

He said "we've got a problem with listeria and not hysteria".

"It is pretty clear right now that we need to write a standard for processed meat, like, right now," he said.

DA MP Annette Steyn said, while this is done, there must be an interim standard.

Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzeni Zokwana said he met with food producers on Monday and they suggested that they use the European Union's benchmarks. However, Zokwana felt that a homegrown standard, "given our challenges", needed to be established.

The committee requested the fast-tracking of the establishment of the Food Control Agency to ensure strengthened inter-governmental relations and co-ordination of food safety practices.

The committee also resolved that after three months, the portfolio committees of agriculture and of health should sit again for a progress report and feedback from the three departments, including the department of planning, monitoring and evaluation.