Polony scare in SA…170 deaths linked to the product

Cape Town – Supermarket giants Shoprite and Pick n Pay on Sunday indicated they are withdrawing all products linked to the source of the world’s largest outbreak of listeria, which claimed 180 lives.

This followed a safety recall by the National Consumer Commission after Tiger Brands subsidiary, an Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane, was identified as the source of the dangerous food-borne disease.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Sunday polony was a definite source. However, he warned that products such as Viennas, Russians, Frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats not typically cooked could also be affected due to the risk of cross contamination.

Two more facilities have also been singled out pending more tests to determine the sequence type. These are an Enterprise facility in Germiston on the East Rand, and a Rainbow chicken facility in the Free State.

The food-borne illness spread across the country with 948 cases detected and 180 deaths reported, according to the latest statistics from the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Pregnant women, neonates, elderly people and anyone with weakened systems are at particular risk.

Listeriosis caused by the bacterium, Listeria monocytogenes, can contaminate animal products and fresh produce, such as fruits and vegetables.

Tiger Brands committed to ensuring that all Enterprise products, as identified, will be recalled.

“We are working very closely with the officials at present to conduct the process and will provide updates to the public on this matter,” said spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker in a statement.

She added that the company is also conducting its own listeria tests.

Motsoaledi called on retailers to clean their fridges, meat slicers, and either remove the ready-to-eat meat products or place them in plastic bags in separate fridges.

The Shoprite Group said in a statement it immediately started to remove the products produced by Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken from its perishable departments and delicatessens.

Refund for customers

It said customers can return any Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken processed meat like polonies, Vienna’s, Russians for a full refund.

Pick n Pay also urgently pulled the products.

“All Enterprise products (including the Bokkie, Renown, Lifestyle and Mieliekip brands) have already been recalled by the company concerned and we are urgently withdrawing them from our stores,” said David North, group executive for strategy and corporate affairs at Pick n Pay Stores, in a statement.

He added that all ready-to-eat products such as polony and russian sausages manufactured at the Rainbow facility in Sasolburg are also being withdrawn.

“This action is taking place in all Pick n Pay and Boxer stores. In addition, as a precaution, Pick n Pay branded chicken polony, manufactured by Rainbow, is also being withdrawn.”

North also said that any customer concerned that they may have bought a ready-to-eat meat product linked to the outbreak can return it for a full refund.

RCL Foods in a statement confirmed that its Wolwehoek processing plant has taken the pre-cautionary measure to suspend all production of RCL Foods’ Rainbow Polony brand.

It said is it also in the process of recalling all Rainbow Polony products from its entire customer base.

“Rigid controls remain in place to mitigate any food safety risks, including microbiological risks, at all our food production facilities,” said RCL Foods chief legal officer Stephen Heath.


Gary Murambiwa
the authorGary Murambiwa