fall ill because of food contamination, prompt action to identify and isolate
the food items and the facilities that processed and supplied the food, is
needed to effectively deal with the threat. Such means include regulatory
processes and procedures and an early warning system(s) to preferably prevent
or minimise the impact of such cases,” says Dr Hennie Ras, principal
specialist: traceability & operations visibility at traceability company IQ
The Department of Health has established that the current listeriosis outbreak
can be traced to a single source of food contamination, i.e. a single widely
consumed food product or multiple food products produced at a single facility.
However, of concern is that the health authorities have not yet been able to
identify the specific foodstuff or the particular production site where the
affected food was produced.
“Until the specific food source and production facility where the manufacturing
happened are identified, there is not much that can be done in isolating the
spread of the disease,” says Thomas Robbertse, CEO of IQ Logistica.
Ras says isolating and recalling the affected product/s in a speedily and
efficient manner will depend much on the level of traceability inherent to the
“To efficiently and optimally track and trace the movement of product in a
value chain, a flexible item instance level traceability audit trail is
required that provides a real-time overview of item-handling events that
specific food items are subjected to through the entire value chain, i.e. from
primary production through all intermediate stages of value-add up to
Rolf Uys, from food safety training and consulting company Entecom, says during
his almost 15 years as a food safety auditor in which he audited well over
1,500 food factories, he learnt a great deal about food safety and best
practices, but he also saw the dirty food safety underbelly of the
“The listeriosis outbreak, which according to the World Health Organisation is
the largest reported listeriosis outbreak yet, has put the spotlight squarely
on the importance of food safety, which in most cases leaves much to be
He added that although South Africa has stringent health and safety
regulations, the authorities lack the resources and infrastructure to implement
them properly, which opens the door to abuse and shortcuts especially when
there is pressure on the financial performance of a company.
Some of Uys’s worst findings as a food safety auditor include urination inside
food factories, fly maggots, mould and fermentation in product zones, insect
infestation in flour silos and flour trucks, live rats/mice in production
areas, dead rats in equipment and rodent droppings on raw materials,
cockroaches crawling over food handling equipment, bypassing critical control
points (metal detectors, sieves, pasteurizers) to increase production; and
faeces behind an electrical panel.
“There are of course many more to add to the list and it is mostly centred
around deep cleaning of equipment and the discipline of personnel. It should
also be pointed out that these were not first-time audits of small little
backyard operations – most were large, well known food manufacturers, with
numerous food safety certificates. Unfortunately, if one knows where to look,
the food industry is not a very hygienic place.”
The international experience shows that foodborne illnesses are on the increase.
In the Unites States, figures from the Centres for Disease Control and
Prevention show that annually roughly 1 in 6 people get sick, 128,000 are
hospitalised and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases.