The $29.2 million Tiger Brands spent to recall cold meat products associated with the world’s largest and most deadly listeriosis outbreak is not going to help the bottom line of South Africa’s largest food producer.   And while it’s not possible to stop a listeria outbreak “in its tracks”  because of the pathogen’s lengthy incubation period, the recall has worked.

The latest situation report from the National Listeria Incident Management Team shows steady progress toward putting the outbreak in the history books.   Here are some of the findings:

  • The number of reported cases per week has decreased since the implicated products were recalled on March 4, 2018, with a total of 64 cases reported since March 5,  2018 (average 6.4 cases/week), whereas 249 cases were reported for the 10-week period prior to the recall (average 24.9 cases/week).
  • Prior to 2017, an average of 60 to 80 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases per year (approximately 1 per week), were reported in South Africa. In July 2017, an increase in laboratory-confirmed cases of listeriosis was reported to National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) which was followed by investigations into the reported increase. On December 5, 2017, the listeriosis outbreak was declared by the Minister of Health, Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi. The source of the outbreak was identified as ready-to-eat processed meat products manufactured at Enterprise Foods’ Polokwane production facility, a Tiger Brands company. A recall of affected products was initiated on  March 4, 2018.

  • 1 034 cases have been reported from January 1,  2017, to May 16, 2018. The number of new cases reported each week has decreased since the implicated products were recalled on March 4, 2018 (Figure 1). Neonates ≤28 days of age are the most affected age group, followed by adults aged 15 – 49 years of age (Figure 2). Most cases have been reported from Gauteng Province (59 percent, 606/1 034), followed by Western Cape (13 percent, 130/1 034) and KwaZulu-Natal (7 percent, 75/1 034) provinces (Table 1).

  • All clinical isolates received at NICD are undergoing whole genome sequencing (WGS). A total of 543 clinical isolates have undergone WGS to date (Figure 1); 92 percent (499/541) belong to the sequence type 6 (ST6) outbreak strain, and the remainder belongs to thirteen different sequence types.
  • Listeriosis outbreak situation report draft _21May2018_final

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