Instead of panicking about the listeriosis outbreak, we should focus on health and safety measures to combat the possibility of infection.

“We are encouraging members of the public to take specific care in how they clean their fresh produce, and to ensure that they are educated as to the basics of listeria prevention,” says Jaco Oosthuizen, CEO of the RSA Group, one of South Africa’s leading sellers of fresh fruit and vegetables on behalf of producers.

“Good information and effective communication are key to minimising risk.”

The RSA Group is monitoring South Africa’s listeriosis outbreak carefully and is committed to working with all relevant fresh produce stakeholders to prevent the spread of the illness.

The Jo’burg Market has a Food and Quality Assurance Department which is monitoring the controls and safety of the fresh produce supplied. In response to this outbreak, the Food and Quality Assurance Department has performed a risk assessment of the fresh produce identified in the documented listeriosis outbreak case studies. Samples of these have been sent through to the laboratory for analysis.

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You have a right to be concerned

“This is a serious disease and people are right to be concerned,” says Oosthuizen, “That said, there is also a lot of information swirling around social media at the moment that is either false or misleading. It’s imperative that we all understand the disease, how it works and what to do about it.”

Related: 3 Ways to prevent getting Listeriosis

Although a serious illness, listeriosis can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Listeriosis is treatable

Although a serious illness, listeriosis can be effectively treated with antibiotics.

Listeriosis symptoms include fever, a stiff neck, confusion, weakness and vomiting, sometimes preceded by diarrhoea. Members of the public suffering from such symptoms should consult their doctor. A course of antibiotics will most likely be prescribed.

“Fresh produce is perfectly safe as long those involved in food preparation follow the basic rules of health and safety,” says Oosthuizen.

“Everyone must wash their hands – and those of children – thoroughly and often. We must also ensure that we wash our food with care, that cooking tools and surfaces are clean, that we cook food well and that we separate raw meat, poultry and fish from other foods and fresh produce. Provided that these basic measures are taken, families can carry on enjoying the benefits of fresh fruit and vegetables as usual without concern.”

Listeriosis facts and health tips

According to the South African Department of Health, the World Health Organisation offers the following five keys to food safety:

  • Keep clean. Wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation. Please do not get tired of washing your hands; if it means washing a hundred times a day, please do it!
  • If you are handling or storing raw food, do not touch already cooked food unless you have thoroughly washed your hands and food preparation utensils. In other words, keep raw and cooked food separate.
  • Cook food thoroughly, never eat half-cooked or uncooked food, especially meat products.
  • Food that does not usually need cooking before eating, needs to be thoroughly washed with clean running water.
  • For families with no source of clean running water (water from rivers, dams, streams etc.) the water will need to be boiled before domestic use.
  • Keep food at safe temperatures. Food to be kept or eaten cold should be refrigerated and food to be served hot should be served hot.
  • Use safe water for domestic use at all times.
  • Use pasteurised milk products.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.