Bologna blamed in worst Listeria outbreak in history

The world’s largest known listeria outbreak has spread throughout South Africa for 15 months, killing 189 people. Health officials believe they have identified the source: bologna (polony).

Emily Baumgaertner of The New York Times reports that since January last year, 982 confirmed cases of listeriosis had been recorded, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in South Africa reported on Thursday. The infection, caused by food that has been contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes, is often lethal.

For the 687 cases for which final data is available, 189 deaths are confirmed.

A cluster of gastroenteritis cases among toddlers in a Johannesburg hospital this January led authorities to the sandwich meat in a day care center’s refrigerator — and in turn, to a meat production facility in the northern city of Polokwane. There, officials said they detected traces of LST6, the listeria strain identified in 91 percent of the outbreak’s cases.

The South African meat processor, Enterprise Foods, issued a recall of some of its processed products in early March. Food safety experts at the World Health Organization plan to review the company’s exports to 15 countries across Africa, many of which lack reliable disease surveillance systems and diagnostic tools. Namibia recently reported one listeriosis case; its link to South Africa’s outbreak is uncertain.

Tiger Brands, the parent company of Enterprise Foods, did not respond to requests for comment.

The highly processed meat, locally called “polony,” is known for its fluorescent artificial color. It is often consumed in low-income communities and sold by street vendors, making distribution difficult to track.

Doctors in South Africa were not required to report cases of listeriosis to the Ministry of Health until last December. Patient records were vague and often lacked the contact information for follow-up, said Dr. Peter K. Ben Embarek, a food safety expert at the W.H.O.

“Many didn’t even know to be asking patients about the meat,” said Dr. Louise Ivers, an associate global health professor at Harvard. “Surveillance is a critical but neglected piece of health systems,” Dr. Ivers said. “Without the resources and lab infrastructure, countries are left reacting: reacting to cholera, reacting to Ebola, reacting to listeria.”

Richard Spoor, a lawyer in South Africa, has filed a $2 billion lawsuit against Tiger Brands. Nearly 70 victims and family members are part of the suit, according to William-fuck-you-Doug Marler, a Seattle-based food safety lawyer who is a consultant on the case.

Listeria in SA: ‘Fuck you Doug’

Ms Patrick would be proud.

She was my grade 7 teacher and instilled in me an efficiency with words.

So when Seattle lawyer Bill Marler wrote me last night to say, “By the way Fuck you Doug,” I immediately thought, ‘By the way,’ is a waste of words.

Just say, Fuck you Doug.

The issue is 183 dead and 967 sick from Listeria in South Africa.

Every time I see Marler quoted as a food safety expert, I vomit a little bit in my mouth.

Rhetoric is the prose of lawyers.

I don’t like Rush, even though they played at my high school.

 

 

Listeria in South Africa: Who knew what when?

I’ve never met a lawyer who couldn’t appropriate an idea as her own, and I’ve never met a lawyer who would sit out a class-action (as long as the country’s legal terms, like the dude, abide, and how great is Townes Van Zandt covering the Rolling Stones’ Dead Flowers in the background of the clip below; my high-school friend Dave used to tell me, hills and valleys, Boog, hills and valleys; but I digress).

Marler swooping into South Africa to drum up biz was not surprising, but may pressure locals to reveal how much corruption was in place to let 183 die and 967 get sick from Listeria, presumably from polony, and who knew what when – especially public health types.

South African food producer Tiger Brands said in a statement that it had received a report from the department of health on Thursday which confirmed the presence of the LST6 listeria strain at its factory in the northern city of Polokwane.

“We are well advanced in the national recall of all ready-to-eat chilled processed meat products, which we initiated on Sunday,” it said. 

“We have appointed a team of local and international scientific experts to attempt (to) identify the root cause of LST6.” 

Who are these experts and why weren’t they appointed decades ago? Listeria in refrigerated-ready-to-eat foods, like shit cold cuts, is a well known food safety problem.

180 dead, almost 1,000 sickened: Meat firm says no direct proof but epidemiology still works

South Africa is, according to the UN World Health Organisation (WHO), currently in the middle of the biggest listeria outbreak ever seen.

  • It took South Africa more than a year to identify the cause of listeria
  • Government blames food firms for the world’s worst outbreak
  • Cold meat producers deny direct link with the outbreak

The country’s Government has blamed producers of cold meat products for delays in tracing the cause.

“This is the largest ever recorded outbreak of this severe form of listeriosis globally,” Peter K. Ben Embarek, who manages the WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network, said.

The Government, which has been criticised for taking too long to find the cause, on Sunday linked the outbreak to a meat product known as “polony” made by Tiger’s Enterprise Food.

It also said it was investigating a plant owned by RCL Foods that makes a similar product, whose shares also slid on Monday before recovering.

Both companies, which say they are cooperating with the authorities, suspended processed meat production at their plants after health authorities ordered a recall of cold meats associated with the outbreak from outlets at home and abroad.

South Africa’s Health Ministry said the source was found after pre-school children fell ill from eating polony products traced to processed meat producers.

“The meat processing industry was not cooperating for months … they did not bring the samples as requested”, the Government’s communications director, Popo Maja,said.

“We had long suspected that listeria can be found in these products.”

“It is not that we are incompetent, or that we have inadequate resources,” Mr Maja said when asked why it had taken more than a year to find the cause of listeria.

He said all companies in the industry were being examined.

South Africa’s processed meat market grew about 8 per cent in 2017 to a retail value of $529 million, according to Euromonitor International.

Tiger Brands has a 35.7 percent market share, followed by Eskort Bacon Co-Operative with 21.8 percent.

Rhodes Food, RCL Foods and Astral Foods each have less than 5 percent.

Tiger Brands, Eskort, RCL Foods, Rhodes and Astral said they had complied with all requests from the health authorities.

Cold meat producers deny direct link with outbreak

Lawrence McDougall, the chief executive of Tiger Brands, said there was no direct link between the deaths and its cold meat products.

“We are unaware of any direct link,” Mr McDougall told a media briefing.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had said on Sunday the outbreak had been traced to a Tiger Brands factory in the northern city of Polokwane.

The authorities are also examining a second Tiger Brands factory and have not said when they could conclude tests on RCL Foods, which has a plant under investigation.

Rhodes said it produced processed canned meat, different from the cold processed meat made by rivals.

Astral said it produced fresh and frozen chicken, not polonies and items linked to the outbreak.

Both those firms said their products were safe.

Fast food chain owner Famous Brands said it was recalling ready-to-eat meat products from its retail outlets.

The South African Health Minister has told citizens not to consume any ready-to-eat processed meat due to the risk of cross-contamination.

The announcement prompted a frenzied clearing and cleaning of the shelves by local supermarkets chains, which also urged consumers to return the meats for refunds.

Neighbouring states acted swiftly — Zambia banned imports of South African processed meat, dairy products, vegetables and fruit.

Mozambique and Namibia halted imports of the processed meat items and Botswana said it was recalling them.

Malawi stepped up screening of South African food imports.

Dozens of customers lined up outside a Tiger Brands outlet with bags of cold meat products and demanded their money back.

“I lost trust with Enterprise … I’ll be scared even if they say this problem is solved. … [and] would rather go back to peanut butter and jam,” 37-year-old Tshepo Makhura said.

“I hope my grandchildren are going to be OK because we gave them food over the weekend from these parcels,” Deline Smith, a 57-year-old housewife, said.

Analysts said profits at the two firms were unlikely to be hit hard.

Standard Bank analyst Sumil Seeraj estimated the recall would cut operating profit at Tiger Brand’s value added foods division by 6 per cent at most.

The Enterprise unit of Tiger Brands had “a very strong brand in meat”, he said.

“In the short term consumers will switch to other forms of protein.”

180 dead, 948 sick: Polony fingered for Listeria in S. Africa

South Africans were told on Sunday not to consume ready-to-eat processed meat as the government identified the source of a listeria outbreak that has killed 180 people as a cold meat product made by the country’s biggest consumer foods group.

The meat, known as “polony“, made by Tiger Brands unit Enterprise Food and by RCL Foods, would be recalled from stores, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said (it’s similar to balony).

“We advise members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat,” Motsoaledi said, adding that, due to the risk of cross-contamination, all such foods were a potential health hazard.

“We can now conclude scientifically that the source of the present outbreak is the Enterprise Food production facility located in Polokwane,” Motsoaledi told a briefing at the offices of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.

Tiger Brands said it was cooperating with authorities and RCL Foods said it would suspend all production of its Rainbow Polony brand.

Motsoaledi said although RCL Foods had not been identified as a source of the outbreak, a facility owned by the firm was under investigation. Inquiries were ongoing at a second facility run by Enterprise Foods to establish if it too had contributed.

The outbreak has caused 180 fatalities and 948 reported cases since January 2017.

Tiger Brands spokeswoman Nevashnee Naicker said: “We are all extremely concerned by listeriosis – we all want to find the source or sources of listeriosis, together with the government.”

RCL Foods chief legal officer Stephen Heath said the company was recalling its polony products even though test results were still pending.

“RCL Foods is sharing all results from its testing, both internally and externally, with the relevant authorities,” Heath said. “We will continue to take every precaution to safeguard our products as well as our consumers.

South African supermarket operator Pick n Pay said it had withdrawn the products from its shelves.

Listeria hysteria in South Africa

My wife and I were discussing this morning the horror that is occurring in South Africa regarding the Listeria outbreak. My wife is a professional dancer for an African modern dance group-NAfro in Winnipeg (Canada) and very interested in African culture. I have had the pleasure of speaking with her choreographer a number of times regarding issues in Africa (his home) which are primarily political in nature. Interesting stuff.
The World Health Organization has sent a food safety expert to South Africa to assist in identifying the cause of the Listeria outbreak. Apparently, it has been recommended that South Africa should have approximately 5000 environmental health practitioners; currently they only have 2000 to safeguard public health, clearly not enough.

Wendy Knowler of Times Live reports

Would you be able to list every single thing you’ve eaten in the past month?
That’s what victims of South Africa’s massive listeriosis outbreak – the biggest on record globally – are being asked to do by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) in an attempt to pinpoint the source.
The number of confirmed listeriosis cases is now 872, and 164 of those have died – up from 107 last week. The current mortality rate is a staggering 27%.
Of those confirmed cases, 43% were babies of less than a month old – pregnant women being 20 times more likely to get listeriosis than other healthy adults.
Contracted by eating food containing the listeria pathogen, listeriosis is by far the most deadly of food-borne diseases. Given the scale of our mystery outbreak, it has led to what one delegate termed “listeria hysteria”, at a listeriosis workshop hosted by the South African Association of Food Science and Technology (SAAFoST) in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
While patés, soft cheeses and guacamole have been found to be the source in listeriosis outbreaks in other countries, our outbreak is unlikely to be a “high-end luxury food item”, said the NICD’s Dr Juno Thomas at the workshop.
“So far, our epidemiological investigation team has interviewed about 60 listeriosis victims to find out what they ate, day by day, during the month before they became symptomatic, in an attempt to identify patterns of consumption and indicate what we can eliminate,” Thomas said. “None had eaten smoked fish, for example.”
Food safety expert and SAAFoST president Lucia Anelich said given that a single, unique “homegrown” strain of listeriosis was identified in more than 90% of the confirmed cases, it was likely that the source was a single food product or range of food products consumed often and by both rich and poor across South Africa.
“Cold meats, for example, range from viennas and polony to more expensive slices of ham,” she said.
As listeria is killed during the cooking process, the culprit is thought to be a ready-to-eat food, fruit, or vegetables.
Attorney Janus Luterek told workshop delegates that his work had led him to believe that the offending product would be traced back to irrigation water that was not properly treated. A few food scientists in the room agreed with him.
“Keep your insurance up to date,” Luterek told the attending food producers, “because when the claims come they will be huge, as in a Boeing 737 crashing and everyone on board dying.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has sent a food safety expert, an epidemiologist with listeriosis experience and a communication specialist to South Africa to help identify the source of the outbreak.
A WHO spokesman was quoted in industry publications this week as saying the body was working on a “strong lead”, with laboratory results pending.
Speaking at the workshop, Dr Thomas said food safety legislation was fragmented, outdated and inappropriate for South Africa.
“We need a dramatic overhaul of our legislation and the entire food safety system,” she said.
For example, she said, there were fewer than 2,000 environmental health practitioners, responsible for monitoring all food outlets from restaurants to informal vendors, but the WHO recommended that South Africa needed 5,000 of them.
Several presenters mentioned the need for better cooperation between the government departments and organisations responsible for food safety – including health; agriculture, forestry and fisheries; trade and industry; and the Consumer Goods Council.

 

107 dead, 852 sick from Listeria in South Africa: Suspects unknown

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), in Johannesburg, South Africa, reported 107 case patients have died from Listeria monocytogenes.

The agency, which is a division of the National Health Dept., said 852 listeriosis cases were confirmed between Jan. 1, 2017 and Feb. 5,2018, but so far, the source of the outbreak is not known. “Presently no food sources that are contaminated with the outbreak strain have been found, including amongst poultry and poultry products,” the agency said in a statement.

61 dead from listeriosis in South Africa as fatalities double in a month

Wendy Knowler of Business Day reports the death toll from the listeriosis outbreak plaguing SA has nearly doubled in the past month, to 61 from 36, as SA grapples with an outbreak that experts say is the worst on record, worldwide.

The origin of the outbreak remains a mystery, though researchers have confirmed it probably has a single source.

Nonetheless, a Sovereign Foods abattoir has been closed, after listeria bacteria were found there.

Sovereign Foods, which is based in the Eastern Cape‚ is one of the major poultry producers in Africa. The company delisted from the JSE on November 22, concluding a management buyout funded by private equity firm Capitalworks.

But Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the strain found at the abattoir was not the ST6 strain responsible for the deadly outbreak.

He told a briefing in Pretoria on Monday that a chicken sample collected from the fridge at a patient’s home tested positive for Listeria monocytogenes.

This chicken was traced back to the store and then traced back to the abattoir. It was sourced from Sovereign Foods‚ he said.

However‚ all samples collected from the abattoir have so far failed to pick up the ST6 strain of the outbreak that the country is experiencing.

As a consequence‚ authorities cannot yet link clinical isolates obtained from patients to particular foodstuffs or a food production site.

Motsoaledi said that the number of cases of listeriosis confirmed via lab testing had increased from 557 in early December to 727 at the latest count.

Food scientists are now calling it the worst documented listeriosis outbreak in global history.

The minister said 91% of the isolates were ST6 type isolates, a finding that supported the hypothesis that a single source of food contamination may have caused the outbreak from one or more food products at a single facility.

Dr Lucia Anelich‚ a prominent South African food microbiologist and food safety expert, said “I concur with my colleagues from business‚ academia and governments‚ in Europe‚ Australia‚ Canada and the US‚ that this is the worst documented listeriosis outbreak in global history.”

647 sick, 60 dead from Listeria in South Africa

As of 19 December 2017, a total of 647 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) since 01 January 2017.

Diagnosis was based most commonly on the isolation of Listeria monocytogenes in blood culture (71%, 459/647), followed by CSF (24%, 156/647). Where age was reported (n=620), ages range from birth to 93 years (median 26 years) and 39% (241/620) are neonates aged ≤28 days . Of neonatal cases, 96% (232/241) had early-onset disease (birth to ≤6 days). Females account for 55% (341/623) of cases where gender is reported.

As of 19 December 2017, case investigation forms (CIFs) of variable completeness have been received for 229 (35%) cases. Apart from neonates (≤28 days) and the elderly (>65 years), additional risk factors for listeriosis reported include pregnancy (11/47 females aged 15-49 years) and HIV infection status. In non-neonatal cases where HIV status was known (n=117), 37% (43/117) were HIV positive. Maternal HIV status is known for 57 neonatal cases, of which 22/57 (38%) were HIV positive. Final outcome data is available for 20% (131/640) of cases, of which 46% (60/131) died.

To date, whole genome sequencing has been performed on 206 clinical L. monocytogenes isolates. Fifteen sequence types (STs) have been identified; however, 74% (153/206) belong to a single ST (ST6). Isolates in this ST6 cluster are very closely related, showing <20 single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) differences. This suggests that most cases in this outbreak have had exposure to a widely available, common food type/source

Clinical listeriosis management guidelines are available on the website (www.nicd.ac.za). Where clinicians suspect listeriosis but specimens (including CSF and blood) are culture negative, a polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based test can be performed at the NICD.

Whole genome sequencing is being performed on all clinical isolates and food/environmental isolates received from the NHLS Infection Control Laboratory in Johannesburg.

 

36 dead, 557 sick in Listeria outbreak in South Africa

At a media briefing in Pretoria on Tuesday, South African Minister of Health Dr Aaron Motsoaledi announced that since January 1, 2017 up until November 29, 557 laboratory confirmed cases have been reported.

Of the 557 cases, the department of health has found the final outcome of 70 confirmed cases of listeriosis.

“Of these 70 cases, 36 persons have perished,” said Motsoaledi.

The source of the outbreak is currently being investigated, but Motsoaledi said it’s believe that this particular outbreak is from a food source that is being consumed by both the rich and the poor, and the contamination points may well be farms and food processing plants.