Government officials have been sharply criticised by the South African Poultry Association (Sapa) for not doing enough to protect consumers from meat importers. Sapa said the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries had not applied the same safety standards used with local meat producers to importers.
This comes after the listeriosis outbreak claimed three more lives, with the number of fatalities nationwide now at 183.
Sapa alleged Brazilian company BRF Foods had been importing mechanically deboned meat (MDM), a paste-like mixture of various meats used in the manufacturing of polony, viennas and other sausages, without it being tested for listeria.
“The South African poultry industry has had a self-funded test protocol for listeria in place for years, and the department has unfettered 24h/day access to our abattoirs,” the association said.
The Brazilian embassy denied links between the listeriosis outbreak and the country’s imported meat. The head of trade and investment at the embassy, Bruno Neves, said Brazilian companies exported processed meat to other countries with no connected outbreak of disease having been reported anywhere in the world.
He did not respond to questions about whether Brazilian imports were tested for listeria and how much of the Brazilian MDM makes it to South African shores, saying: “Notification of listeriosis to health authorities is not compulsory in Brazil.
“This cannot be misled (sic) as lack of control of listeria contamination in food production.”
Sapa said: “It is a matter of concern for the industry that, while many countries are blocking our processed meat products, South Africa continues to accept untested imported MDM and we now find that food safety measures in the exporting country may have been circumvented.”
Ministry spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo said it had written to the chief veterinary officer and the embassy of Brazil for an official report regarding BRF.
“We are awaiting the report and have emphasised the urgency with the Brazilian authority,” Molapo said.
The department issued a directive to include listeria testing on imported MDM in line with standard operating procedure on microbiological monitoring of imported meat.
“The department implemented mandatory listeria testing on imported meat as soon as signs pointed to a possibility that processed meat could be involved,” Molapo said.