A King William’s Town dairy that was supplying area schools with fermented milk or amasi was ordered to close last week on the order of the Buffalo City Metro health services.
The Innesfree Agriculture and Dairy was shut down because it was found to be in contravention of regulations for the sale of milk and dairy products, which prohibit the sale of raw milk and raw sour milk for human consumption.
South African health officials ordered the dairy closed in conjunction of their investigation of an unusual outbreak of foodborne illness that occurred during the last week of October that saw 1,056 students from 11 school in the area suddenly requiring treatment for diarrhea after eating a meal of sour milk and pap provided by the national school nutrition program.
Schools used buses, taxis and ambulances to get all the sick students to one of the three provincial hospitals in the area. With so many ill students, the outbreak was treated like a national disaster, brining out the East Cape’s Premier and health and education ministers, all of whom visited the sick students in the hospitals.
Sherene Fourie, owner of the Innesgree dairy, however, accused the provincial government of being on a “witch hunt” and targeting her business unfairly. She says her dairy did not supply most of the schools where students became sick.
Innesfree, with ten employees, was nonetheless ordered to stop sales and dispose of its raw and raw sour milk inventory. She can continue to sell animal feed. Fourie questions whether schools and their milk buyers used sanitized containers in transporting the milk and whether proper cooking methods were followed.
Hundreds of other, mostly small, dairies remain open in the East Cape area, selling raw milk.