SOUTH AFRICA – The Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) and its member organisations have raised concerns over the entire meat industry which has been associated with Listeriosis scare across the food chain.

The forum which includes the SA Meat Processors Association (SAMPA) questioned the entire red meat value chain, marred with Listeria contamination that has claimed several lives.

RMIF blames press coverage following the announcement by the minister of health implicating Tiger Brands unit Enterprise Food in the Listeriosis outbreak scandal.

This has had “devastating consequences” and a “catastrophic impact” on the entire red meat industry.

As a result, shares in South Africa’s biggest consumer foods producer Tiger Brands and RCL Foods fell after the minister warned that products such as Viennas, Russians, Frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats not typically cooked could also be affected due to the risk of cross contamination.

RMIF said that it was due to lack of information and detail that has impacted heavily not only on the consumer but also SA red meat industry.

“The average consumer is being led into a listeria hysteria, which is having unfortunate consequences for families who rely on processed meat as their source of protein,” the RMIF said.

It requested that all relevant information relating to tests conducted by the National Department of Health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) as referred be made clear.

“Food safety remains at the heart of the red meat industry and the RMIF would like to assure the consumer that everything possible is being done with the utmost urgency to ensure that our consumers’ personal health and well-being is protected, not only as a matter of routine, but with increased vigilance,” the RMIF added.

According to RMIF, there was no single, simple answer for the recent outbreak and that more virulent listeria strains could perhaps be emerging.

The RMIF claims it had to drag government to court on several occasions to implement independent meat inspection services in terms of the Meat Safety Act.

It called for close cooperation between the respective departments in establishing food safety guidelines and to utilise opportunities to interact with industry on the forums provided and urged consumers to practice basic hygiene practices.