Picture: 123RF/serezniy
Picture: 123RF/serezniy

New regulations to protect local consumers against health and safety risks posed by the production of processed-meat products will come into effect in October.

The department of trade and industry said on Monday that new regulations were intended to enable inspection of processing plants to avoid a similar tragedy after the recent listeriosis outbreak.

In 2018, the health minister at the time Aaron Motsoaledi announced that polony and other products from an Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane‚ Limpopo‚ had been found to have been the source of the world’s largest outbreak of listeriosis. The outbreak was the worst in recorded history and had been responsible for at least 185 deaths since January 2017, the department of health said at the time.

The new regulations follow an agreement between the departments of trade and industry, and health. The regulations will be enforced by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), an entity reporting to the department of trade and industry.

The department of trade and industry  said the aim of this compulsory specification is to effectively regulate those categories of processed meat products that are considered as high risk, to protect the health and safety of consumers. It said it will work with the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development to co-ordinate the enforcement of the new regulations in terms of the Agricultural Product Standards Act.

The NRCS is setting up an extensive regulatory programme of inspections throughout the country. This will enable the government and industry to detect any foodborne bugs early, the department of trade and industry said.

Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel said the regulations were an important step in ensuring that consumers were protected against harmful foodborne bacteria.

“Our food industry is important to the country’s economic development and job creation. Jobs in the food industry must be secured through measures that provide consumers with appropriate protection. We have agreed that a task team comprising officials from the three departments be nominated to consider a dedicated food safety authority for the country,” said Patel.

Health minister Zweli Mkhize said: “This denotes an era of governance where there is effective multisectoral collaboration to protect our people from environmental dangers while at the same time protecting food and job security. We are very pleased with the resolutions in the interest of preventative strategies for a healthier nation.”

phakathib@businesslive.co.za