The Ministry of Health and Wellness (MoH&W) has deployed different health practitioners at different borders across the country to ensure that listeria affected goods do not enter the country.
Listeriosis, which is a serious infection usually caused by eating food contaminated with the bacterium Listeria monocytogenes broke out in South Africa in January 2017 and as of now has already killed over 180 people causing alarm in neighbouring countries including Botswana and Namibia.
The deployment of health officials comes in the wake of the deadly disease spreading and the government through the ministry is on alert for any suspicious entry of affected goods in the country.
During a media tour at Tlokweng bordergate yesterday, the principal technical port health officer, Obakeng Kgosiethata said the ministry deployed different health practitioners that include port health officers to screen and ensure that none of the banned ready-to-eat food products, specifically from Enterprise and Rainbow (foods linked to listeriosis - Enterprise russians, Enterprise polony and Rainbow chicken polony), get in the country.
“We inspect goods coming in the country. We have intensified the inspection process by doing through checks. We have intensified the process, nurses who screen people coming into the country for all diseases that may be linked to listeria and others, we also have isolation rooms where we can accommodate people with signs of the disease or any contagious disease,” he explained.
He said they also conducted intensive inspections where they search small cars, trucks, buses and others. Kgosiethata explained that even though they do not allow recalled ready-to-eat cold foods such as polonies, russians, viennas and others from the stated manufactures, they also looked at labelling and expiry dates of imported food products, medicines and some chemicals.
“Since SA started recalling those product there is no products that came in the country. We pay special attention to products that are affected to ensure that our public remains healthy. Public health is more important to us as the ministry,” he said.
For his part, senior port health officer, Farnwell Bojase said chickens from the recalled manufacturers were safe, as they would be cooked. He explained that listeria does not live in warm or hot places and therefore since chickens are cooked, there was high possibility that the disease dies. He said the bacteria could only survive in cold temperatures.
He added that they work hand-in-hand with different institutions such as Customs, Veterinary and Plant under the Ministry of Agriculture, Botswana Defence Force and the Botswana Police Service.
“Port health would like to assure Batswana that we do everything possible to ensure their health. There will be no products that may pose public health threat,” he said, assuring the public.
Meanwhile at Seen Foods, food and safety consultant, Sehularo Korapetse said they had recently tested Seen Foods products and the tests came out negative.
“We have intensive hygiene procedures that we follow to ensure that the vulnerable members of our community that is the newborn, pregnant women, sickly and elderly members do not get affected by the disease. We follow intensive hygiene processes when manufacturing our products to ensure we have no recontamination. We have not received any complaints associated with our meat products since our establishment,” he said.
He explained that they had not rested since the outbreak in SA and decided to put up more measures so that they do not have any listeria case in future.
Listeria is the name of a bacteria found in soil and water and some animals, including poultry and cattle.
It can be present in raw milk and foods made from raw milk. It can also live in food processing plants and contaminate a variety of processed meats.