Nigeria and 14 other African countries have recalled certain processed meat products as a result of the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), which stated in a disease outbreak report that the SA case was the largest listeriosis outbreak ever detected.
Listeriosis is food poisoning caused by eating foods contaminated with the Listeria monocytogenes (L. monocytogenes) bacterium. In pregnant women, the infection can result in miscarriage, premature delivery, serious infection of the newborn, or even stillbirth.
WHO said that the “food processing company” linked to the outbreak by South Africa’s department of health, as well as three “retailers”, had exported affected products to Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Swaziland, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“All of these countries have issued recalls for the implicated products,” the WHO stated, adding that three had actually banned imports of additional food products from South Africa.
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The listeriosis outbreak with about 727 cases confirmed so far was traced to staple meaty foods such as rolls of cold meat and sausages containing the Listeria monocytogenes bacteria.
South Africa’s department of trade and industry (DTI) had last week expressed concern that other African countries are enforcing bans on its food products. The DTI in a statement said the bans even applied to products and commodities unrelated to the current outbreak, including meat and meat products, fruits and vegetables.
The statement followed a meeting of Southern African Development Community (SADC) health ministers in Gauteng, during which Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s health minister, “clarified the safety of meat produced in South Africa”.
The World Health Organization (WHO) had earlier warned Nigeria and 15 other African countries about the outbreak which started in 2017.
“This outbreak is a wakeup call for countries in the region to strengthen their national food safety and disease surveillance systems,” said Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa
The WHO said that Namibia had recently reported a confirmed case of listeriosis.
“It is important that this case and other possible cases be properly investigated and the implicated food sources identified,” the international health body stated.
The WHO advocated proactive food safety processes but did not recommend “excessive” actions that would interfere with travel or trade in terms of the international health regulations.