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South Africa has numerous health and safety regulations, but the authorities lack the capacity and infrastructure to truly enforce them.
South Africa has numerous health and safety regulations, but the authorities lack the capacity and infrastructure to truly enforce them.

Ongoing Listeria threat emphasises the need for food control agency


Issued by Eclipse PR - May 21st 2018, 14:06

Having identified the source of the worst Listeria outbreak on record, claiming 201 lives to-date, is it safe to assume that South Africans can now trust that the food products they purchase are not contaminated with harmful bacteria? According to the food industry’s sanitation and hygiene experts, the worst is yet to come if greater governance and enforceable standards are not implemented within the South African food industry.  

Gareth Lloyd-Jones, Chief Commercial Officer at Ecowize - South Africa’s leading specialised hygiene and sanitation service provider for the food and beverage industry - highlights that South Africa is still at high risk of further cases of Listeriosis, and other similar foodborne diseases, because the real cause of the initial outbreak is yet to be addressed.

“Tracing the source of the outbreak was vital in halting the spread of the illness from that particular source, but what we should now be focusing on is how to avoid such an outbreak from happening in the first place. If we approach these situations reactively, it is only a matter of time before another deadly outbreak occurs,” he explains.

Lloyd-Jones adds that the public and private sector ought to be working together, proactively, to implement and enforce strict food safety standards.

He says, “South Africa has numerous health and safety regulations, but the authorities lack the capacity and infrastructure to truly enforce them. The result: producers are able to let standards slip without consequence. This is especially true within operations under pressure to produce low-cost food products like ready-to-eat cold meats.”

“Rather than simply referring to these unlinked food safety laws, mandated by different directorates, which have proven difficult to police, we need to take action and introduce a dedicated food control agency.”

Investing in a food control agency, according to Lloyd-Jones will result in:
- Stricter hygiene, sanitation and microbiological regulations;
- Greater clarity regarding national food safety standards;
- Access to a single point of contact for enforcing these standards;
- Regular investigations into maintaining high levels of hygiene and sanitation across food processing operations;
- Increased education on food safety within industry operations as well as within society as a whole;
- Lower risk of bacterial outbreaks, foodborne illnesses and resulting fatalities;
- Food processing businesses taking greater responsibility for their processes; and
- Increased international recognition.

“Until such time as a designated authority takes charge of ensuring food control and safety standards, we can not become complacent and simply assume that because the source of the recent outbreak has been addressed, we are home free.”

“Governance is key and the South African food industry has never been in such dire need of leadership than it is now,” Lloyd-Jones concludes.


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