Listeriosis – urgent update

This photo is only used for illustration purposes pertaining to the report. The chickens pictured are in no way affected by Listeriosis.


Reports about corruption and the evasion of food safety checks in the Brazilian meat and poultry industries are a continuing concern for South African consumers.

The latest report is that the Brazilian police are investigating charges that top executives at Brazil’s major poultry exporter are alleged to have engaged in fraud to evade food safety checks. The former CEO has been arrested.

The Brazilian company, BRF SA, is one of the biggest poultry exporters in the world. They would also be an exporter of mechanically deboned meat (MDM) which South Africa imports in large quantities from Brazil. MDM is a paste used in processed meats, including polonies, viennas and other sausages.

The South African Poultry Association calls on the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to determine whether BRF is a supplier of MDM to South Africa, and if so how many thousand tons are imported every month from this company.

“We would also like the Department to establish from the Brazilian authorities whether the food safety tests that BRF is alleged to have evaded included tests for listeria. Given the serious outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa, and the deaths of 180 people, we hope this is something the Department will investigate speedily.

“It is our view that the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has been slow in implementing a listeria test protocol for imported MDM. We understand that this was only concluded with meat importers last week. When it is implemented, it will be a step forward in protecting South African consumers, but it should have happened long ago,” the SA Poultry Association said in a media release today (March 9, 2018).

The South African poultry industry has had a self-funded test protocol for listeria in place for years, and the Department has unfettered 24h/day access to its abattoirs.

“It is time that imported meat and poultry products are held to the same standards as locally produced products. We have also been working with DAFF to put in place the most effective measures to ensure consumer safety, the most recent being the implementation of the Independent Meat Inspection scheme as well as reviewing the testing protocols for meat.

“It is a matter of concern for the industry that, while many countries are blocking our processed meat products, South Africa continues to accept untested imported MDM, and we now find that food safety measures in the exporting country may have been circumvented.

“We hope the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries will be able to tell South African consumers the steps they are taking to protect them against unsafe food.”

(This press statement was released on behalf of Dr Charlotte Nkuna: Interim CEO, Mr Marthinus Stander: Chairman of Broiler Organisation of SAPA and Dr Ziyanda Majokweni: Director Poultry Disease Management Agency of SAPA).

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