'This should never have been allowed to happen'
The listeriosis food recall will be the biggest since the Sunday Times exposé on Sudan Red in 2005
The Enterprise food recall — announced on Sunday after the source of South Africa’s deadly listeriosis outbreak source was discovered — will be the country’s biggest since the 2005 Sudan Red scandal.
Rainbow Chicken Ltd foods have also been recalled as a precautionary measure after an unidentified listeriosis strain was found in one of their production factories in Sasolburg, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi revealed.
The affected Enterprise factories are in Polokwane and Germiston. The deadly listeriosis strain has claimed the lives of 180 people to date. It’s been found mainly in processed meat products.
In 2005 South Africa’s major food retailers were forced to withdraw 13 spice, chilli and atchar products after they were found to contain the carcinogenic industrial chemical dye known as Sudan I, II, III and IV .At the time, products found by a Sunday Times investigation to be laced with the illegal industrial dye were pulled from the shelves of over 1,000 stores across four major chains: Checkers, Pick n Pay, Spar and Makro.
Until now the Sudan Red scandal has been the biggest food recall in South Africa. Recalls stretched across southern Africa, including India, Madagascar and Mauritius.
The dyes are legally used in industry to colour products such petrol, waxes, floor and shoe polish and cosmetics.
At the time, the Sunday Times exposed how product manufacturers had been using the dye to enhance the colour in various products to get a better selling price. Sudan Red dyes are banned worldwide in food products.
Despite the exposé, when the Sunday Times relooked at the same affected products two years later in 2007 – to see how far manufacturers had come in terms of compliance – it was discovered that they still contained Sudan Red and that more products were found to be contaminated with the dye.
Former Sunday Times consumer writer Megan Power, one of the journalists who broke the Sudan Red exposé, said the listeriosis tragedy raised the question “yet again of what’s happening with in-house, routine testing by manufacturers – and the level of government health inspection”.
“Scrutiny of these suppliers’ internal testing processes will be key to what happened and ensuring it never happens again. When a colleague and I exposed the presence of the banned chemical dye in spice products on supermarket shelves in 2005, which shocked industry and consumers alike, the bigger scandal was that we found the same contamination again just two years later, in at least six of the same products. That should never have been allowed to happen.”