Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

The government has declared the end of the listeriosis outbreak, the world’s deadliest on record, and has withdrawn advice against consuming ready-to-eat processed meat products.

And the Enterprise factory in Limpopo, identified as the source of the outbreak, could reopen in October, health minister Aaron Motsoaledi said in Johannesburg on Monday.

The listeriosis outbreak has been costly for Tiger Brands, with recall-related costs amounting to R365m for the initial insurance claims, spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said.

The packaged goods company lost a further R50m a month as operations ceased.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases also identified listeria at RCL’s Rainbow Foods, resulting in a recall of all ready-to-eat processed meat products from the facility.

The country has destroyed more than 5,800 tons of recalled meat since the beginning of March, when it linked the products to the outbreak and named a plant owned by Tiger Brands as the source of the crisis.

More than 200 people died from listeriosis between January 2017 and July 26 and 1,060 cases of the illness were identified, according to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases.

No new cases caused by the outbreak strain have been identified since the first week of June and incidences have dropped to pre-outbreak levels, Motsoaledi said, adding the outbreak has been declared over.

It is still unclear how the bacteria strain entered the affected factory, Motsoaledi said.

“Today’s announcement means that ready-to-eat processed meat can now be safely consumed, as before the outbreak,” he said.

South Africans are now free to eat “kotas”, a popular township meal made of a quarter loaf of bread stuffed with chips, cheese and cold meat.

With Bloomberg