Although it expressed concern that lives have been lost as a result of the listeriosis outbreak, it said that the statement by the minister of health and the press coverage that followed has had devastating consequences for the domestic red meat industry.
Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi had stated that polony was a source of the listeriosis outbreak, but has added that frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats could also be affected due to the risk of cross-contamination.
In a statement, RMIF said it was concerned about “misinformation” and “a lack of detail” in the minister’s comments. RMIF said this “misinformation” was not only detrimental to the consumer, but also to the local red meat industry.
There have been 948 reported cases since January 2018, with 180 fatalities. The outbreak had been traced to a Tiger Brands’ Enterprise facility in Polokwane and has led to retailers pulling certain brands of processed meat products off supermarket shelves and offering refunds.
It said: “The average consumer is being led into listeria hysteria, which is having unfortunate consequences for families who rely on processed meat as their source of protein.
“Food safety remains at the heart of the red meat industry and the RMIF would like to assure the consumer that everything possible is being done with the utmost urgency to ensure that our consumers’ personal health and well-being are protected, not only as a matter of routine, but with increased vigilance.
“The outbreak has emphasised the responsibility of the red meat industry, together with other food industries, to provide for proper and improved hygiene during the production, processing, packing and preparation of red meat and red meat products,” it added. “As things stand, there are no regulated requirements for the testing of listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods in South Africa. SAMPA [South African Meat Processors Association] members adhere to all the guidelines of the department.”
The latest statement from RCL Foods also addressed any confusion there might be among consumers. It said: “There has been much confusion in trade around our recall. To clarify the situation, we have sent further communications to all our trade partners restating that Rainbow products are safe for consumption. It is ONLY our polony that has been recalled. We have started new in-store communications clarifying the confusion about our product recall and a mobile communication has been launched to all our employees to educate them further on listeria.”