Picture: Oupa Mokoena/ANA

Johannesburg - Environmental Affairs Minister, Dr Edna Molewa, assured South Africans that all foodstuffs contaminated with Listeria are safely disposed of.

The department has introduced measures to ensure that there is enough capacity in the country to timeously dispose of the infected waste, and remove the possibility of the infected waste being accessed through waste picking activities.

“As we know, with the high levels of waste picking in the country, we could have waste pickers accessing the contaminated food if this food ends up in waste disposal facilities accessible to this group of vulnerable people," Molewa said in a statement on Friday night.

"The contaminated waste may be accepted for treatment at a licensed incineration, non-burn or co-processing facility, or may be accepted for disposal at a Class A landfill. Class A landfills are specially designed and engineered for acceptance of hazardous waste and are not accessible for waste picking," her department said.

"Any condition of the respective waste management licence of the receiving facility that may prohibit receipt of such waste will be suspended until such time as all of this waste has been treated and/or disposed of."

The department said it has ensured that the measures to prevent any "negative consequence of the disposal" of these products were urgently put in place.

Waste treatment and disposal facilities have been made aware of these measures as well as provincial and municipal authorities, it said. 

On a provincial, national and municipal level, departments and officials would continue to create awareness among waste pickers regarding the risks associated with the contaminated waste.

Molewa also expressed concern that the recall had caused some panic where residents ended up throwing away their food products into their normal domestic waste bins and this ended up on municipal landfills. 

This took place before the announcements from outlets that food products could be brought in to the various outlets across the country.

“I believe the measures we have taken will ensure that the constitutional right of our people to a safe and healthy environment is protected,” added Dr Molewa.

On Sunday, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said processed food manufacturers Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken Limited (RCL) had been issued with safety recall notices following a lengthy, in depth investigation by scientists into the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa.

Scientists had identified the Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane in Limpopo as the source of the current listeriosis strain ST6 outbreak.  Preliminary results showed that several ready to eat processed meat products from the Enterprise facility in Germiston in Gauteng contained listeriosis monocytogenes, but the sequence type was not yet known.  

Supermarkets in South Africa reacted swiftly by recalling and withdrawing Rainbow cold meats from their shelves following Motsoaledi’s announcement.

At least 180 people have died from the listeriosis, while many other patients are still being tracked by the department of health.

African News Agency/ANA