South African health officials reported an additional 53 outbreak cases of Listeriosis since the last report putting the total to 820 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases that have been reported to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) since 01 January 2017.

Listeria bacteria
Listeria monocytogenes/CDC

The number of fatalities has risen to 82. The source of the outbreak remains elusive.

The outbreak,  described as the ” largest documented listeriosis outbreak South Africa has ever experienced”, has prompted  calls for a designated food control agency in the country.

Gareth-Lloyd Jones, Executive Director of Ecowize – Global leaders in specialised hygiene and sanitation service provider for the food, pharmaceutical and healthcare industries said what we really need at this time is the introduction of a dedicated Food Control Agency, rather than the array of unlinked food safety laws, mandated by different directorates, which have proven to be difficult to enforce and police.

Highlighting the magnitude of the problem facing the country, Lloyd-Jones explains that nine out of 10 cases of Listeriosis in South Africa have been identified as ‘ST6’ – the strain which has been noted globally as severe and fatal. “This is largely due to the ST6 strain being more resistant to traditional treatment. However, the prevalence of the single strain also suggests that the outbreak can most likely be traced back to a single source and product that is widely consumed by a variety of socio-economic groups and is used in the manufacture of a host of other widely consumed products, meaning that it should be somewhat easier to locate if the appropriate process is followed.”