Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the source of the biggest listeriosis outbreak in history, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) was traced back to a meat factory in Polokwane on 4 March. It was also announced that the Listeria bacteria had been found at another meat factory in Germiston.
Dr Motsoaledi was however at the time unable to confirm if it was the same strain that caused the outbreak. The minister, at the media briefing, further went on to say: “If you are used to eating sphatlo and kota and all that, just wait a bit. At least for now.”
The ramifications of this statement have been devastating for business owners who sell kotas. Linda Ndaba, owner of NCC Fast Food, Décor and Catering in Protea North, says her business has been hit hard by the health minister’s comments.
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“I have been open for about two months now, I’m used to selling a minimum of 50 kotas daily but the day after the minister’s announcement I only sold 10 kotas”, Ndaba said.
Ndaba passionately noted that she felt the minister was wrong in mentioning kotas because according to her, the supplier she uses manufactures its own cold meats thus the clampdown on cold meats should not be applicable to her kotas.
“I don’t like the fact that he mentioned kotas specifically, kotas are a black business. I can’t afford to stock Enterprise products because they are too expensive. If I use them then I’d have to increase the price of my kotas so I don’t even use them,” she continued.
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Meanwhile, some people are continuing to consume kotas and cold meats in spite of the findings made by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).
The NICD traced the main culprit as polony following interviews with over 900 patients who have been infected by the bacteria and the rigorous testing of the stomach contents of the 180 who have died as a result of the outbreak.
“I am going to continue eating my kota, I don’t have a problem,” said a patron at NCC Fast Food, Linda Zulu.
Others are however exercising more caution, “I threw away the viennas and polony that was in my fridge as soon as I realised the seriousness of the outbreak,” said Palesa Mathabela, a Protea resident.
The public is urged to exercise caution and throw away all cold meats until the outbreak has been managed. It is also important to continue preparing food hygienically.
Symptoms of Listeriosis include fever, vomiting and general weakness amongst others, it is curable and patients can recover with treatment within a week.