Picture: Twitter/@Noni_M2
JOHANNESBURG - Officials from the SA Poultry Association (Sapa) and the departments of agriculture and health are today expected to meet in Pretoria to discuss ways to mitigate the listeria scourge, which has so far claimed 61 scalps in the country.

This as the poultry industry is still reeling from the devastating effects of “chicken dumping” and bird flu, which resulted in producers losing millions of rand as thousands of birds were culled to curb the outbreak.

The poultry association wanted testing of the disease, also known as listeriosis, to be stepped up on locally produced and imported frozen chicken that was thawed, handled, sold as "loose serve” and also when repackaged locally.

The Department of Health said it had closed a poultry abattoir operated by poultry producer Sovereign Foods in Pretoria after detecting listeria there, and had banned it from preparing food.

The department said it did not yet know whether this abattoir was the source of the outbreak, which the National Institute of Communicable Diseases said was still unknown.

The poultry association said while Sovereign Foods - which could not immediately be reached for comment - was not a member of Sapa, it remained in dialogue with the association on the matter.

Sapa acting chief executive Dr Charlotte Nkuna said they wanted the tests done in order to protect the public as the bacteria could be picked up by animals.

“But this is not to say the current outbreak is caused by chickens, because that has not been confirmed as yet,” she said.

“We have a meeting on Tuesday (today) with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Department of Health to talk about his particular issue. There is an investigation that is looking at poultry and other sectors as well. We want to co-operate,” said Nkuna.

The officials were expected to jointly determine a “co-ordinated and sustainable sample and test protocol” in order to produce credible and reputable results.

Nkuna said a media statement would probably be issued after the meeting “in terms of what we are going to do moving forward”.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced yesterday that the death toll from listeriosis has risen to 61 since the outbreak was announced in early December.

He reportedly said genome sequencing was being carried out to shed light on the source of the outbreak; and Gauteng still had the most cases of listeriosis, with 442 out of the 727 confirmed cases with 92 confirmed cases.