Listeriosis: Good news for local chicken-consumers

Illustration photo: Although the dangerous ST 6 strain of bacteria that cause Listeriosis were not found in Rainbow Chicken's products or fascilities in the Vaal Triangle, health experts advise consumers to handle all meat products of any company in a very hygienic way and to thoroughly cook chicken meat products. This will kill bacteria that can make you sick.

SASOLBURG. – Good news for the Vaal Triangle is that test results from an independent laboratory in France last week proved that the dangerous ST6 Listeria strain which causes Listeriosis, is NOT present at Rainbow Chicken’s polony plant in Wolwehoek, Sasolburg.

These results confirm the company’s and government’s previous test results that the Sasolburg plant couldn’t have been the place where the current Listeriosis outbreak in South Africa started.

“All Rainbow products have always been – and remain – safe,” the company says on its website.

On March 4 this year, the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, identified ST6 as the cause of South Africa’s Listeriosis outbreak. All polony manufacturers, including Rainbow Chicken’s facility in Sasolburg, had to be investigated to find the primary origin of the outbreak.

First test results, a month ago, already confirmed that no ST6 bacteria were found in Rainbow polony, as only traces of less serious bacteria which don’t cause Listeriosis, were found. These less dangerous bacteria can easily be destroyed by thorough cooking.

A month ago, RCL Foods, owner of Rainbow Chicken, nevertheless recalled all its polony and other ready-to-eat products from its entire customer base and closed the Wolwehoek plant as a precautionary measure while government investigations continued.

The National Health Department last week reported that it can confirm the listeria bacteria found at the Rainbow Chicken polony factory in the Vaal area is not the ST6 strain that caused 91% of cases.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases completed the whole genome sequencing of the strains taken from the RCL factory in Wolwehoek‚ and also corroborates the results reported by RCL Foods at the independent French laboratory.

Dr Juno Thomas, head of the Centre for Enteric Diseases (CED) at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) said in a statement last week the fact that the CED couldn’t find the ST6 listeria monocytogenes strain in retail Rainbow polony or in the RCL foods production facility, adds further strength to the finding that the outbreak was caused by another company.

Fingers are now mainly pointing at food processing facilities in Polokwane, which is not related to Rainbow Chicken or its mother company, RCL Foods.

According to the latest figures reported on 26 March by the NICD, a total of 982 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases have been reported to the NICD since January 1 last year. Most cases have been reported from Gauteng (59%, or 576 out of a total of 982), followed by Western Cape (12%, 121 cases) and KwaZulu-Natal (7%, 71 cases).

These cases have been diagnosed in both public (65%, 634/982) and private (35%, 348/982) healthcare sectors.


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