Killing off listeria in meat products

A customer returns products at an Enterprise outlet after a recall by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi following a listeria outbreak on March 5. Tiger Brands has refused to apologise for its part in the outbreak of listeriosis that has claimed the lives of more than 180 people and resulted in 948 people falling ill.
A customer returns products at an Enterprise outlet after a recall by Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi following a listeria outbreak on March 5. Tiger Brands has refused to apologise for its part in the outbreak of listeriosis that has claimed the lives of more than 180 people and resulted in 948 people falling ill.
Image: Gallo Images

It would take 140 degrees of intense heat and shredding at a medical waste treatment plant to kill off deadly listeriosis-causing bacteria inside tons of infectious cold meats.

Sowetan spoke to one of the medical waste companies that have been given permission by government to accept and treats potentially contaminated cold meats as South Africa battles with the killer disease that has claimed over 180 lives and infected 948 so far.

On Friday, Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa announced that infectious waste may be accepted for treatment at licensed plants and Class A landfill sites.

Graham du Randt, operations manager at Compass Medical Waste Services, explained the process that would unfold once the polony, viennas and russian sausages were received at a plant.

Du Randt said the meats would first have to be placed inside special containers to
ensure that whoever was handling it onsite did not come into contact with the bacteria.

The company, which has a capacity to take in 16 tons of waste at one of their sites in Clayville, outside Tembisa, uses steam technology to decontaminate waste.

Du Randt said once the hazardous waste reaches the site it must be treated almost immediately.

"The priority is to treat it. We use a technology called autoclave to treat the waste. It utilises steam to treat the waste at high temperature and pressure," he said.

Du Randt said the cold meats would have to stay inside the autoclave machine for about 30 minutes at 140 degrees heat before it is shredded and placed into containers.

"Basically, that's used to render all the infectious organisms or pathogens within the waste inactive. It kills them off," he said.

The vehicles that were used to transport the hazardous waste also have to go through an intensive cleaning to make sure that there were no traces of bacteria left.

Du Randt said once the process was completed, the company would transport it to a landfill site licensed to accept hazardous waste.

Tiger Brands spokeswoman Nevashnee Naicker said they had collected approximately 3500 tons of recalled Enterprise Foods products by Thursday afternoon.

"At this stage, we have progressed well with the trade recall. Our distribution partner is managing the collection of all stock from stores across the country, and will be
managing the safe disposal of all returned products, in line with National Consumer Commission regulations and guidelines," Naicker said.

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