While awaiting a detailed comment from Tiger Brands regarding Enterprise Foods Polokwane allegedly being the source of the listeria outbreak, it was learnt that Capricorn District Municipality’s (CDM) health inspectors had already discovered the bacteria in mid-February after conducting routine tests on the food processing lines of the plant.
The discovery was made days before the announcement of the source of listeria by the Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Sunday by when 180 people had already died. CDM Media Liaison Officer, Moffat Senyatsi said the municipality’s health inspectors discovered the presence of listeria in samples collected from raw meat, polony and Vienna sausages.
A submission made to Enterprise Foods on 27 February, five days before the announcement by Motsoaledi, in terms of the National Health Act recommended deep cleansing of their processing lines and halting production of their ready-to-eat products, Senyatsi informed.
Senyatsi indicated that the district municipality regularly conducts such tests at various food processing facilities to ensure that food sold to the public are safe for consumption.
Asked why CDM made recommendations to Enterprise Foods but not inform the Department of Health or make public the findings, Senyatsi stressed that the municipality did not have the authority to make the findings public or alert the department but only dealt with the client, in this instance Enterprise Foods Polokwane.
After the pronouncement of the source of listeria by Motsoaledi, Enterprise Foods customers in Polokwane caused a commotion outside the premises on Monday demanding to be refunded for the ready-to-eat meat products they bought at the facility’s factory shop. The group of shoppers was seemingly not given attention by the management and opted to threaten to force entry into the premises. This apparently persuaded the management to partly refund customers.
Entrepreneur Seipei Rasethaba bought ready-to-eat meat products worth over
R2 000 for his bunny chow business on Saturday and was refunded R1 800. Although he was satisfied with the arrangement his concern remained that he would lose money after Motsoaledi’s announcement that citizens should refrain from eating bunny chow. He said his business generates about R4 000 a day hence the listeria issue will affect him badly.
Tiger Brands has reportedly undertaken a full national recall of the affected Enterprise ready-to-eat meat product range and has suspended operations at its Enterprise manufacturing facilities in Polokwane and Germiston. Enterprise’s factory shop in Polokwane was closed on Monday and a notice stating: ‘This shop will be closed until further notice’ was displayed on its entrance.
In a statement made available to Polokwane Observer on Monday, Tiger Brands Chief Executive Officer Lawrence MacDougall advised consumers to remove any Enterprise ready-to-eat products from their fridges and place them in a plastic bag away from other products.
Tiger Brands officials were expected to meet with the National Consumer Commission (NCC) at 11:00 the same day to come up with strategies to resolve the matter and the holding company’s Corporate Communication Director, Nevashnee Naicker pledged to forward the resolutions of the meeting but the information was not made available by the time of going to print.
Story & photos: ENDY SENYATSI