Listeriosis: Motsoaledi lacks political will to get to the bottom of the outbreak

Issued by Patricia Kopane MP – DA Shadow Minister of Health
26 Apr 2018 in News

The DA notes reports that Tiger Brands have confirmed that an independent laboratory has found strains of the Listeria bacterium at its Polokwane Enterprise facility.

While we welcome this sign of openness and transparency on the part of Tiger Brands and the decision to keep the facility closed whilst remedial work is done, the reality is that currently, we don’t know how the contaminated factories were infected.

Currently, South Africa has no continual testing of imported products because the Chief Environmental Health and Port Health Services instructed Port Health Officials to stop testing imported chicken products for Listeria.

Considering that South Africa imports Brazilian meat products, a country which does not recognise Listeria as a notifiable disease as well as recent reports that Australia has been exporting Listeria-contaminated products to South Africa, the government must ensure that testing for the Listeria bacterium continues.

This week, 50 new infections have been confirmed since the product recall and more than 200 people have lost their lives. The DA has repeatedly put pressure on the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, to take decisive action to institute the necessary measures to prevent even further loss of life.

Since the Listeriosis outbreak, the DA has explored every possible avenue to hold government accountable and to keep consumers safe, by:

  • Submitting a slew of Parliamentary questions to the Department of Health;
  • Writing to Minister Motsoaledi to request contingency plans;
  • Requesting a joint meeting with the Departments of Health, Trade and Agriculture to find multisector solutions to the outbreak;
  • Consulting with listeria experts; and
  • Convening discussions with pork and poultry producers to learn how this outbreak has impacted on their industries.

The reality is that there has been a lack of political will and clarity on the part of Minister Motsoaledi to get to the bottom of the Listeriosis outbreak. This, and the fact that the primary source of the outbreak has not yet been identified has caused confusion among the public.

This outbreak points to a broader neglect of proper food safety mechanisms on the part of the government. The DA will continue to fight to ensure that food safety is prioritised for South Africans.