Gauteng’s MEC of Economic Development Environment Agriculture and Rural Development, Lebogang Maile, has urged Gautengers to adhere to basic food hygiene principles as outlined in the World Health Organisation’s ‘Five Keys to Safer Food’ programme. This follows the finding released by the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD) confirming that listeriosis cases have now risen to 872 nationwide since the beginning of last year (2017).

According to the report the bacteria has claimed the lives of 164 to date, with Gauteng leading the pack. The NICD report further indicates that 60% of the cases have occurred in Gauteng, followed by the Western Cape with 13% and KwaZulu-Natal at 7%.

“The findings are quite worrying and disturbing, and this requires our Veterinary Services to be vigilant at facilities that fall within their scope in terms of the legislative framework and play their part in containing the spread of this bacterium in the province”, said Maile.

The MEC urged the citizens to follow the core ‘commandments’ of food hygiene which are, washing hands before handling food and often during food preparation; separating raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods; cooking foods thoroughly, especially meat, poultry eggs and seafood; refrigerating and reheating foods correctly; as well as using safe water or making it safe (by boiling). Choosing processed foods such as pasteurised dairy products and washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly, especially if eaten raw, could also lower the risk.

Listeriosis is a rare infection mainly caused by eating food contaminated with a specific bacterium which is found in soil, water and vegetation. Listeriosis can be treated if reported on time and can be prevented if good hygiene is practised. The Department of Health has proffered the five keys of prevention which are available on their website (www.health.gov.za).

To date the department has instituted the following action; samples have been taken from all active abattoirs in Gauteng and where necessary deep cleaning has been instituted.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development’s (GDARD’s) said its veterinary service is hard at work to avert the spread of the bacterium in the province. “A dedicated team of able men and women has devised a comprehensive strategy for the province, working in collaboration with relevant stakeholders and affected parties”.

“Even though the findings are scary, we have the situation under control in the province. The report from our Veterinary Services shows that we have the situation well under control, and we urge everybody to support our initiatives,” continued Maile.

Maile said GDARD is working with other relevant stakeholders continues to monitor and coordinate the outbreak response plan.

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