WHO Names South African Listeria Outbreak World’s Largest
According to the UN World Health Organization (WHO), South Africa is currently in the middle of the largest listeria outbreak ever seen. As of this week, the outbreak has sickened almost 1,000, with at least 180 fatalities, and has received extensive press coverage globally (see e.g., here and here). The cause of the outbreak has been unknown for the past several months.
On March 4, 2018, the South African health minister stated that the source of the outbreak was linked to a nationally popular ready-to-eat (RTE) meat product called “polony” manufactured by two unrelated brands. The products are being recalled. Africa’s health ministry is now concerned about the risk of cross-contamination and so has advised members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat.
This event will inevitably lead the implicated companies to revisit their respective food safety protocols, and could potentially lead regulators in South Africa to consider new approaches to achieving food safety goals with specific regard to RTE meat products.