Listeria – Enterprise Foods – FAQs

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1. Technical/Scientific
  1. What is the difference between Listeria and listeriosis?
    • Listeria is bacteria that is present in the world around us, and it exists naturally in soil, vegetation and water. Listeria monocytogenes is the species of pathogenic Listeria bacteria that causes the infection listeriosis. The ST6 strain of Listeria monocytogenes has been linked to the recent listeriosis outbreak in South Africa. According to the Department of Health, 90% of listeriosis cases have been linked to ST6 specifically. The strain linked to the remaining cases have not been confirmed. Listeriosis is a serious, but treatable and preventable disease.

     

    1. What are the listeriosis symptoms and who does it affect?
    • The disease is characterised by flu-like symptoms – muscle aches, fever, headache, vomiting, diarrhoea and stiff neck. If you or a member of your family show any signs of these symptoms, visit your clinic or local doctor within the first 12-hours, because listeriosis worsens within a very short period - DO NOT WAIT.
    • Listeriosis mostly affects new-born babies; the elderly (aged above 60); pregnant women and persons with a weak immune system (HIV/AIDS, cancer patients).

     

    1. Did you conduct tests for Listeria as part of your routine monitoring and testing protocols?
    • Tiger Brands has stringent monitoring and testing protocols for the manufacturing of quality food products. This includes rigorous monitoring and testing protocols for the detection and management of pathogens, viruses and bacteria, including Listeria. This is based on the DQS guideline, and retailer specifications, among others.
    • At the Enterprise facilities, we have a fully certified food safety management system, certified by an external independent certification body (DQS – an international certification body). Our systems are also audited by a number of retailers. We also have our micro-laboratories on site and make extensive use of external SANAS accredited micro laboratories for verification and product testing.

     

    1. If you have such processes in place, how did you not know you had Listeria?
    • Listeria is found in the environment and can be expected to be found in a factory environment as well. Listeria in the factory environment is managed through hygiene protocols. With respect to the presence of Listeria in finished food products, Enterprise Foods follows the SANS 885 guideline which allows for less than 100 CFU (colony forming units) per gram in finished product. Our results were well within these parameters (below 10 CFU). Detection at these levels does not equate to contamination. It must be remembered that LST6 must be specifically tested for as a normal test for Listeria will not provide you with details of the strain. To date, no products from Enterprise Foods has tested positive for LST6.
    • During this period of investigation and discovery we have decided to be extra cautious and to take immediate precautionary action when traces of Listeria is detected where it is not expected to be found. We are investing all our time and energy into not only understanding the cause of the LST6 detection, but also how it could have come into our facility. Local and international experts in listeria management are helping us with this exercise. While every effort is being made to get to the bottom of this outbreak it will take time to complete our investigation.

     

    1. Do you use imported meat or meat products in your factory and will you continue with the importation?
    • South Africa imports Mechanically Deboned Meat (MDM) from Europe and Brazil. MDM is inspected at port of entry via The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and then released for use. The country imports between 15,000 and 17,000 tonnes of MDM per month, and Enterprise uses approximately 1,000 tons of this per month. This is used in the production of Enterprise products only and not sold into the market.

     

 

2. Company positions

 

  1. Why has it taken so long open the Germiston facility?
    1. All our factories underwent enhanced deep cleaning protocols and we worked closely with local and international experts in Listeria management, and local Department of Health authorities.
    2. One of the prerequisites for reopening was reaching an agreement with the authorities on the requirements for start-up and reopening the facilities. We now have this agreement and subsequent approval from the Health authorities for the reopening of the Enterprise Germiston facility, which produces ‘ready-to-cook’ products.

 

  1. What work has been undertaken to ensure that the Germiston facilities were rehabilitated?
    1. Our factories went through full refurbishments and deep cleaning processes. The main areas of focus from a rehabilitation perspective were floors, drains, ceilings and wall panels, which are designed to facilitate easy cleaning and sanitisation to ensure bacteria free surfaces.
    2. All areas of the facility have been segregated into low and medium and high care zones depending on stage of processing, each with separate entrances and ablution facilities. Staff will only have access to their zones of operation to avoid any possibility of cross-contamination between the zones.
    3. Separate canteen facilities were built again to ensure segregation of zones in the factories.
    4. We have re-redesigned entry/exit points and have put additional processes in place that ensure that staff who have exited the factory for any reason, including using the ablution facility, cannot re-enter their operation zone without a complete change of protective clothing and going through a full boot and hand wash area.

 

  1. Are the authorities satisfied that the facility complies with the necessary requirements?
    1. The Ekurhuleni Department of Health has been intimately involved during the refurbishment process and under the auspices of the National Department of Health. They have issued an R638 operating license to the Germiston Factory. This indicates that the municipality is satisfied that the factory meets all the standards for the production of meat products.

 

  1. How has food safety been improved?
    1. For context, it is important to note that ST6 was found in specific areas at our Polokwane facility only, which produced read-to-eat meat processed products. No ST6 was found in our Germiston facility. We made a voluntary decision to err of the side of caution and halt production on all Enterprise products until our investigations were concluded.
    2. Resultantly, we used this period to conduct intense deep cleaning protocols and a refurbishment of all our facilities. Employees were also re-trained with the latest safety and quality protocols.
    3. Processes efficiency, and ultimately safety-levels, have therefore certainly been improved.

 

  1. What products will now be produced?
    1. The factory will begin with the production of ready-to-cook products, such as bacon and pork sausages.
    2. The company will also produce salami sticks and salami for slicing for private labels (i.e. not for Enterprise Foods). Salami is classified as a Ready-to-eat product which does not promote growth of the listeria bacteria (product in this category have a PH of less than 5 combined with a water activity of less than 0.94).

 

  1. When will the Polokwane facility be reopened?
    1. We will resume production of ready-to-eat chilled processed meats once refurbishments at the Polokwane facility have been concluded and the necessary assessments have been completed by the Department of Health.
    2. We anticipate this to occur in November.
    3. The Enterprise Foods meat canning operation, which is a separate unit on the Polokwane site, re-commenced production on 12 September 2018. A Certificate of Acceptability for this operation was issued by the Capricorn Municipality on 31 August 2018.

 

  1. Will Enterprise Foods ever regain the trust and support of consumers?
    1. We appreciate that much work must be done to earn back the trust of our consumers.
    2. Part of rebuilding this trust includes providing as much transparency as possible about the production process through our 7-Step Quality Check process.
    3. We will be providing details on our Enterprise Foods website and inviting consumers to engage with us on all our social media platforms directly.

 

  1. Will you be opposing the Class Action?
    1. It’s important to note that the Class Action is yet to be certified and that the Attorneys for the Class Action have indicated that they will approach the Johannesburg High Court to have the Class Action against the company certified.
    2. We have previously communicated (August) that we will be supporting the Class Action process brought against us by Richard Spoor Attorneys Inc. and LHL Attorneys Inc.
    3. Our legal representatives have been working closely with the attorneys for the Class Action to agree the terms of a court order for the certification of the listeriosis Class Action.
    4. We have committed to acting with honesty and integrity throughout this process.
    5. We reiterate that no liability has been established against the company for the listeriosis outbreak. Should liability be determined, we will respond appropriately to any legitimate claims.

 

  1. Did you eventually find out how ST6 entered the Enterprise Polokwane facility?
    1. We have worked closely with international and local experts in listeria management and engaged in thorough investigations and audits of our processes and raw material inputs.
    2. To date, these investigations have not yielded any clarity on how this strain of listeria could have entered our facility.

 

  1. Could a consumer develop listeriosis from consuming ready-to-cook products?
    1. No, because these products require cooking before being eaten, which destroys listeria at temperatures over 74 degrees Celsius.