One minute the children were jumping up and down in a playroom and the next minute they had a fever, felt nauseous and started vomiting.
Klipspruit West Child Care and Orientation Centre in Soweto had nine children diagnosed with the outbreak of listeriosis on January 12.
The Department of Health traced the source of the disease after learners and the grandchildren of the owner of the centre, Momi Oliphant, were admitted to Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital with fever, nausea and vomiting.
A parent of one of the children said she was informed by the caretaker that her three- year-old son had taken ill.
“When I found him (at the hospital), he was hot with fever and they had taken off his clothes.
“We stayed at the hospital from Friday until Tuesday, when he was discharged.
“The health inspector came to us to ask what food the children had been given.
“I had to think back on what food we could have given the children.
“That was when they told us about listeriosis. For us it was new,” she said.
Oliphant said it was a traumatic experience, and now she wanted nothing to do with any processed meat.
“I would like to express my gratitude to the local clinic for responding swiftly to the sick children. Without the clinic staff we wouldn’t have made it in time.
“They took care of the children and transported them to Baragwanath Hospital, which is rare considering the way the system is working these days,” Oliphant remarked.
She confirmed that the nine children had eaten polony and bread on the day they fell ill.
Following the outbreak of listeriosis at the centre, Gauteng Health MEC Dr Gwen Ramokgopa visited the affected children in Soweto yesterday.
Addressing them, Ramokgopa assured the children that they were in a safe environment and that they were loved.
She also thanked the local clinic and the childcare centre for their quick response.
“The authorities are working tirelessly to provide a safe environment for the residents and parents of the children, who were infected,” said Ramokgopa.
The MEC later inspected the contents of the centre’s refrigerator to ensure there was no processed meat and asked Oliphant to refrain from using any processed meat, be it halaal or otherwise.
Meanwhile, Tiger Brands, regarded as partly responsible for the spread of the foodborne disease, said they were working with the authorities to get to the bottom of the matter, as food safety was their priority.
Spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said the Enterprise Foods recall of their processed products was continuing and would continue until March 31.
“Our in-store merchandiser is managing the collection of all stock from stores across the country, and will be managing the safe disposal of all returned products, in line with regulations and guidelines,” said Naicker.
“We are doing everything we can to get to the root cause of the LST6 strain found at our Polokwane plant,” she added.