It has been more than a year since 200 people died in a listeriosis outbreak, and the government has still not passed changes that might be able to stop future flare-ups of the disease, reports The Star.
The country had a major listeriosis outbreak last year after a Tiger Brands factory that produces processed meat products was contaminated. Following the outbreak, former minister of trade and industry Rob Davies said regulations and compulsory specifications for processed meat products should be developed as a matter of urgency to ensure public health was not compromised, and an outbreak such as listeriosis averted.
But, the report says, this has still not been done. Parliament also heard that the National Regulator for Compulsory Standards (NRCS) had developed regulatory norms for the processed meat sector in 2014 but that implementation was blocked when industry players rejected the proposed levies as being too high.
To force the government's hand on its promises, the Healthy Living Alliance (Heala) and Amandla.mobi have started an online petition, which currently has almost 100 signatories. The report says the advocacy groups want the regulations to be put in place as soon as possible.
“How could the Department of Trade and Industry let the food industry delay regulations linked to public safety and health for four years?" asked Heala programmes manager Lawrence Mbalati. "This shows the level of influence industry has over the government and makes it clear the department is not doing enough to put in place and enforce regulations to stop monopoly and greedy companies from threatening our health and safety." Mbalati added that they hoped new minister Ebrahim Patel would implement the regulations.”
Amandla.mobi campaigner Khaliel Moses said: “The listeriosis outbreak made it clear how dangerous it is to let industry produce food without being properly regulated.
"…it’s important we regulate the industry and force them to put the health of Mzansi’s people before their profits. These potentially life-saving regulations could stop another listeriosis outbreak and put safe food higher on the political agenda.”
NRCS spokesperson Mirriam Moswaane is quoted in the report as saying: “The draft regulation was published on July 20, 2018 for comments. “(They) were consolidated and the NRCS is currently consulting all the stakeholders with interest on the regulation.”
She said they would make announcements once the consultation had been completed. In terms of the draft, imported processed meat products would have to originate from a facility approved for export in the country of origin and be approved by the Department of Agriculture, Forestries and Fisheries.The Star report