Red Meat industry responds to listeriosis and “misinformation”

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The Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) represents the entire red meat value chain from the primary producer through to the consumer and records its concern that lives have been lost as a result of the outbreak of Listeriosis. The RMIF has also noted with concern the media statement released by the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) on 4 March 2018 which essentially concluded that the present outbreak was traced to a food production facility in Polokwane whilst raising further concerns about a facility in Germiston.

At the outset we must point out that food safety remains at the heart of the Red Meat Industry and the RMIF would like to assure the consumer that everything possible is being done with the utmost urgency to ensure that our Consumer’s personal health and well-being is protected not only as a matter of routine, but with increased vigilance.

Unfortunately the aforesaid media release is devoid of detail and this lack of detail has resulted in misinformation which is not only detrimental to the consumer, but also the South African Red Meat Industry. In this regard, the average consumer is being led into a Listeria hysteria which is having unfortunate consequences for families who rely on processed meat as their source of protein.

The RMIF and its member organisations, including the South African Meat Processors Association (SAMPA), representing the meat processing and related sectors, are deeply concerned that the entire processed meat industry has been implicated without justification. The devastating consequences emanating from the media coverage thus far as a result of the Minister’s media release has had far reaching and catastrophic impact on the processed meat industry and the Red Meat Industry in its entirety.

Consequently the RMIF has requested all relevant information relating to the tests conducted by the National Department of Health and the NICD as referred to in the media release to determine the exact nature and ambit of the testing conducted.

The RMIF had to drag Government to Court on several occasions to implement Independent Meat Inspection Services, which should have been adopted some 18 years ago in terms of the Meat Safety Act, 2000. It was only under the threat of contempt of Court did Government exceed to the RMIF’s demands to implement Independent Meat Inspection Services.

During the processing of livestock to meat at the abattoir, particular attention is given to slaughter procedures, personnel hygiene and sterilization of equipment to minimize bacterial contamination during this process. Furthermore, meat inspection of each animal and carcass ensure the health of the animal and removal of any possible contamination that might have occurred. Microbiological testing of water, product, contact surfaces and hands is a prerequisite at a registered abattoir in terms of the Meat Safety Act, 2000 and supporting regulations.

It is therefore imperative that consumers ensure that the meat they purchase is sourced only from registered abattoirs that have an Independent Meat Inspection Service and that once purchased the cold chain is maintained at all times; as well as to avoid eating raw or under cooked meat products.

The World Health Organisation’s five keys to food safety:
 Keep clean. Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation.
 Separate raw and cooked food. If you are handling or storing raw food, do not touch already cooked food unless you have already washed your hands and food preparation utensils.
 Ensure that working surfaces are cleaned before using for different food types.
 Cook food thoroughly. Food that does not usually need cooking before eating should be washed thoroughly with clean running water.
 Keep food at safe temperatures.
 Use safe water for domestic use at all times or boil before use.