South Africa-based consumer foods group Tiger Brands is recalling its ready-to-eat chilled meat products amid a listeria outbreak linked to a factory of its subsidiary Enterprise Foods.

The recall, which purportedly links the processed meat products Enterprise Polony, Enterprise Frankfurters and Enterprise Smoked Russians with a factory in Polokwane, was prompted by an order from the country’s National Consumer Commission (NCC).

Meanwhile, another South African food company and manufacturer of polony, RCL Foods, has been ordered to recall food products distributed locally or for export, Reuters reported Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi as saying yesterday (4 March).

An investigation is underway at an RCL Foods plant where polony products have tested positive for listeria monocytogenes.

RCL Foods has suspended production of its Rainbow Polony brand at the facility in Wolwehoek, although the company said the sequence types of the isolates are not the type of listeriosis that has driven the current outbreak. The business is in the process of recalling its Rainbow Polony products from all its customers. Results from its testing of “environmental samples” are still pending, it added.

South Africa’s Department of Health confirmed the onset of the listeria outbreak in December 2017, according to a statement from Tiger Brands today. Reuters said there had been 180 fatalities and 948 reported cases since January 2017.

Tiger Brands said it had suspended operations at both of Enterprise Foods’ plants at Polokwane and Germiston.

The company said it had “found a low detection of a strain of listeria in some products on 14 February but the presence of the ST6 strain has not been confirmed by our tests. The company has furthermore sent its samples to an external laboratory to test for the strain itself.”

Chief executive Lawrence Mac Dougall added: “Food safety remains the highest priority at Tiger Brands – where we always place consumers’ health and safety above all else. Therefore, we can confirm that we have, with immediate effect, undertaken a full national recall of the affected Enterprise ready-to-eat meat product range.”

Reuters reported health minister Motsoaledi as saying: “We advise members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat.” He added enquiries were ongoing at a second facility run by Enterprise Foods to establish if it too had contributed.

A statement from RCL Foods read: “In line with the Department of Health’s announcement, it must be highlighted that the specific strain of pathogen responsible for the outbreak has not been linked to the Wolwehoek facility. RCL Foods is continuing its detailed discussions and is working closely with representatives from the DoH, the Department of Agriculture, Forests and Fisheries, and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases.”

The company said it had tightened its food safety protocols in “recent months” as a precautionary measure following the listeria outbreak. 

“Rigid controls remain in place to mitigate any food safety risks, including microbiological risks, at all of our food production facilities. We will continue to take every precaution to safeguard our products as well as our consumers.” 

According to Reuters, Motsoaledi told a briefing at the offices of the National Institute of Communicable Diseases: “We can now conclude scientifically that the source of the present outbreak is the Enterprise Food production facility located in Polokwane.” 

Tiger Brands said it had contacted all of its customers to make sure all the recalled products have been removed from shelves, and will be conducting print, radio and online communications to reach out to consumers.

“Since the confirmed outbreak of Listeriosis by the DoH in December 2017, we have amplified our testing for listeria of both raw materials and finished goods and have also introduced additional hygiene monitoring of our processes, equipment, storage and waste areas at our facilities,” Tiger Brands CEO Mac Dougall added.