07/03/2018 06:14 SAST | Updated 07/03/2018 06:15 SAST

Ugh! Is 'White Slime' The Source Of Listeriosis?

Government is testing all white slime imports for listeriosis, and the bulk of these come from Brazil.

Unhappy customers return products at an Enterprise outlet after a recall by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi following a listeria outbreak on March 05, 2018 in Germiston, South Africa.
Foto24 via Getty Images
Unhappy customers return products at an Enterprise outlet after a recall by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi following a listeria outbreak on March 05, 2018 in Germiston, South Africa.

The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF) is testing imported "white slime" – mechanically deboned meat – at all South Africa's ports of entry for listeria, Business Insider SA reported on Tuesday afternoon.

This "white slime" could be the source of the listeriosis outbreak, which was traced to polony and coldmeats factories owned by Enterprises, in Polokwane.

Louw Hoffman, a professor in meat science at the University of Stellenbosch told Business Insider SA this week that imported white slime could be the source. Most of South Africa's white slime is reportedly imported from Brazil, and is used in processed meats. White slime is also imported from Thailand, Argentina and the US.

The DAFF reportedly confirmed to Business Insider SA that it was testing white slime imports.

But the Brazilian government denied that it was to blame.

"We believe it is unfair and irresponsible to hold Brazilian meat liable for the listeriosis crisis, especially considering the stringent control which Brazilian products are subject to before being exported, not only to South Africa, but to many other countries in the world," Bruno Neeves, head of trade and investment at the Brazillian embassy in Pretoria told Business Insider SA.

On Monday, the department of health told Business Day that the source of the outbreak could be been more quickly identified had meat companies cooperated with investigators. Meat companies reportedly told investigators that there was no reason for them to comply when they were asked to submit samples of their food for testing.

About 180 people died thanks to the outbreak. On Monday, Dr Juno Thomas of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) revealed that 78 of the deaths were children, according to The Star.

She reportedly said that more cases are expected because there is a chance that information about the outbreak has not reached per-urban and rural areas.

One of the victims was 61-year-old Glenda Warmack, whose family told TimesLive on Tuesday that she was in perfect health before contracting the disease.

Warmack reportedly had no immune system problems and never ate polony or cold meats. She contracted what she thought was a tummy bug some time before Christmas, and one day, she collapsed trying to get out of bed. She was rushed to hospital but reportedly did not know where she was when she arrived there. She was dead three days after contracting the "tummy bug".

The City of Cape Town said on Tuesday that it would be monitoring the department of health's instruction to outlets to recall products that could potentially be linked to listeriosis. According to IOL, the city said its officials would visit smaller outlets to ensure they were complying.

Zimbabwe joined Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia in banning South African cold meat imports, according to Eyewitness News. The country has reportedly assigned surveillance teams at its borders to monitor imports, and any imports found will be quarantined and destroyed.

Meanwhile, during a 2011 listeriosis outbreak in the US, the second largest in the world, after South Africa's, fruit and vegetables were also recalled, according to Health24.

The recall included products such as apples, nuts, ice-creams, and hummus.