The NICD can confirm that the outbreak of listeriosis that affected more than 1000 persons is over. Listeriosis is a notifiable medical condition and surveillance for human disease is ongoing. Presently, surveillance data in both the public and private sector continues to affirm that the outbreak is over. The number of cases reported per week has remained low and stable, having returned to pre-outbreak levels.
The National Department of Health together with the WHO convened a joint WHO-RSA listeriosis incident management team (IMT) made up of senior officials from the Departments of Health (including Environmental Health), Agriculture, Trade and Industry and Environment, and the NICD. The activities of the IMT to strengthen food safety, especially in ready-to-eat meat, include the following:
- Ongoing surveillance and investigation of human listeriosis cases by the NICD, to identify clusters of cases and detect outbreaks early;
- Inspection of all ready-to-eat processed meat facilities across the country. These inspections have been done together with the district municipalities and metros, and are ongoing;
- Review of molecular sequence data of environmental isolates, food and patient isolates to establish if links are present. To date, the NICD has not linked human cases to specific foods or environments other than the recent outbreak;
- Revised regulations pertaining to the application of the hazard analysis and critical control system (HACCP), (R908 of 2003) were published on 14 June 2018 in the Government Gazette as Notice R.607. This regulation requires all producers of ready-to-eat processed meat to be HACCP certified by an external agency by March 2019.
Cases of listeriosis have been documented in South Africa for many years, and sporadic cases will continue to occur. In keeping with international recommendations, persons at high risk for disease (including pregnant women, those with HIV, diabetes, cancer, liver or kidney disease, and those aged over 65 years) should preferably avoid foods that are at high risk of contamination with listeriosis. This includes dairy products (especially unpasteurised products and soft cheeses), read-to-eat processed meat, and raw fruit and vegetables.
To decrease the risk of listeriosis and other foodborne diseases, all persons are advised to practice food safety measures including
- Practice good hand hygiene – including washing hands before and after eating, and preparing food
- Separate raw and cooked food
- Cook food thoroughly
- Keep food at safe temperatures
- Use safe water and safe raw foodstuffs when preparing food.