SAMPA Takes Action Against Food Safety Issues in South Africa

  • SAMPA has engaged with the Department of Health and agreed to the introduction of a compulsory Food Safety Managment program called HACCP which is to be rolled out to ALL meat processors. The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point program is a well accepted and globally recognized risk assessment based food safety and hygiene programme. Making it compulsory for the industry will ensure the independent audit of the program by SANAS accredited auditors
  • In the absence of a compulsory standard on Listeria, we have recommended to the Department of Health and related government bodies, retailers and other affected organisations that global best practice standards in relation to both the levels and testing of listeria (European Union standard) be legislated and made compulsory for all ready-to-eat products.While we recognize that the legislative process takes time, given the urgent nature of the current situation, we as an industry will apply these interim food safety measures mentioned above. These proactive measures taken by SAMPA will ensure the safety of our members’ products in the interim
  • We have also recommended to government that a National Food Safety Council be set up as a matter of urgency to tackle the broader issues affecting food safety across all industries in South Africa. This will ensure that there are protocols and processes in place to allow an efficient, rapid and coordinated response from industry, government and related organisations in the event of a food safety incident taking place in future

Over and above the food safety protocols which producers must adhere to, contamination of bacteria can be best prevented through food safety measures recommended by the World Health Organisation which include:

  • Washing of hands, food preparation areas, and raw vegetables and fruit thoroughly separating raw and cooked ingredients and ensuring that cutlery is clean and not using knives used on raw meat to cut cooked or ready-to-eat products in order to avoid cross-contamination from raw to cooked food
  • Bacteria is killed off in the cooking process so follow cooking instructions
  • Keep food at safe temperatures and promptly refrigerate perishable foods at below 5 degrees

The adherence to basic food hygiene principles in the home minimizes the risk of food-borne bacteria of which listeria is but one.

What is Listeriosis?

  • Listeriosis is an infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes bacteria
  • The infection is more likely to affect pregnant women, the elderly and people with weakened immune systems
  • It is unusual for people outside these susceptible groups to get sick with listeriosis1
  • Listeriosis is not a new disease with South Africa experiencing a number of cases a year
  • The Listeria is an environmental bacteria which is commonly found in soil, water and vegetation

How is Listeriosis contracted/spread?

  • People who become ill with listeriosis generally do so after eating contaminated food
  • We are able to test for listeria specifically
  • Recent incidents of Listeriosis in South Africa have been traced to a single strain of the Listeria monocytogenes bacterium at specific facilities. The bacteria was found on the packaging of the products and not in the meat itself
  • Global outbreaks have not been linked to meat and testing showed that the meat itself was not contaminated

What are the symptoms of Listeriosis?

  • Listeriosis can cause a variety of symptoms
  • Symptoms include fever, muscle aches, nausea and diarrhea
  • Should the infection spread to the nervous system patients can experience headaches, stiff neck, loss of balance or confusion2
  • People with listeriosis generally report symptoms within 1 to 4 weeks of eating contaminated food3

How is listeriosis diagnosed and treated?4

  • Listeriosis is diagnosed when the listeria monocytogenes is found in a patient’s body fluid or tissue such as blood or placenta
  • Listeriosis is treated with antibiotics
  • If you suspect that you may have listeriosis, you need to see your doctor, tell them that you ate possibly contaminated food

What can I do to protect myself from getting ill?
Contamination of bacteria like Listeria and others can best be prevented through food safety measures as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO):

  • Hygiene measures like thoroughly washing your hands, fruits and vegetables, cutting boards and food preparation surfaces
  • Avoiding cross contamination by not using the same knife or utensils for raw and cooked foods or fruit and vegetables and meat
  • Try to avoid cutting into food packaging
  • Ensure cooked and raw foods are handled separately
  • Store food correctly and within 2 hours of purchase if it needs to be refrigerated. Your fridge should be at least 4°C or colder5
  • If you are pregnant, reheat processed meats until they are steaming hot before eating them

SAMPA strives to bring you a safe, quality and nutritious product you can trust.

1, 3, 4, 5Center for Disease Control, Listeria FAQ
2Web MD, Listeria (Listeriosis): Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment