JOHANNESBURG – The death toll from the world’s largest ever outbreak of the food-borne disease listeria has risen to 204, but the number of new cases has declined sharply after products were recalled, South African authorities said on Thursday.

The Health Department earlier in the year recalled processed meat products known as “polony”, after the source of the outbreak was traced to a factory owned by Tiger Brands unit Enterprise Foods two months ago, resulting in a class action lawsuit filed against the company.

The department of Health and Agriculture said in  joint statement, “Since identification of the source of the outbreak and recall of implicated products, the number of cases of listeria has declined drastically.”

The statement said the number of cases reported has risen to 1,033, the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD).

However the number of reports per week had decreased to an average of 6.4 since 5 March, after the products were recalled, compared with 24.9 previously.

The government said they will review its food safety legislation and will hold a consultative meeting regarding compulsory specifications for processed meat.

The departments said, “Risk profiling of food processing premises is under way and preparations have been made for a programme of inspections and laboratory testing of high risk processing facilities of food that may be at risk for Listeria contamination.”

Listeria is a bacterium found in soil, water and vegetation. The bacterium can be infected through humans by consuming animal products and fresh fruit and vegetables.

Photo Credit- EWN

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