Government says making listeriosis a notifiable disease should help contain any future outbreak of the listeria bacteria.

Plans are also on the cards to set up a Food Safety Agency to regulate and enforce food safety laws. This emerged in a briefing by the Agriculture Department in Parliament.

The listeriosis outbreak caught the country by surprise. It was detected by doctors at the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg.

The Agriculture Department believes one of the best ways to contain any future outbreaks is to make listeriosis a notifiable disease. This means reporting all cases to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

Dr Mphane Molefe says, “Listeriosis wasn’t notifiable. We missed it. If it was notifiable, we could have reacted earlier.”

While the Department says it’s not putting too much focus on the source of the bacteria, it says it will continue to have a surveillance system on it. More than a thousand cases were reported between January 2017 until August 2018.

No new cases have been reported since June this year.

The Department says it’s also reviewing food safety laws with a view to establishing a Food Safety Agency.

“The work in terms of how we progress with the food safety agency will be guided by the review that we’ll get because the review can say you need an agency or you just need to improve your structures in particular was and you can still do it within the current system that we have. So we’re not sure how we’ll be guided on that one,” says Molefe.

The Department aims to interview all listeriosis patients to establish their food consumption history. It also wants the informal sector monitored.

Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry is currently doing a study on the cost of the listeriosis outbreak to the country.