The truth can be hard to swallow. Especially when you’ve got polony and viennas on your plate.
The listeria hysteria of this past week has been a huge eye-opener for us consumers.
It has exposed all sorts of weak links in the food industry chain – from manufacturers and suppliers to retailers, and even the authorities.
Look, when you’re chowing a bright pink worsie, you never quite know what you’re sinking your teeth into.                                                                                            It’s a leap of faith eating processed meat, and we place a lot of trust in the processes that go into producing it.
So it was a betrayal of that trust, our worst fears confirmed when these products were linked to the deadly listeria outbreak.
The source was identified as the Enterprise Foods facility in Polokwane.
Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken were issued notices to recall all products produced in their Polokwane, Germiston and Free State factories and to stop production as a result of tests linking the listeria monocytogenes ST6 strain positively with these factories.
The Polokwane plant had been traced as the source by a team of health officials after nine children from Soweto were treated for gastroenteritis at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in January.
Meat experts say the outbreak may have been caused by a chicken paste, also called “white slime”.
White slime is deboned chicken which is made into a paste.
Last year SA imported 202 million kilograms of it.
A professor in meat science at the University of Stellenbosch, Louw Hoffman, said polony and vienna products must include some of the white slime to keep costs low.
So in other words, it’s possible that listeria could have been imported to SA.
Scary, ne?
Anyway, by Sunday night after the scandal had broken, all the major retailers removed the viennas, polonies, bacon and salamis from their shelves – and offered refunds on all the products.
Credit to Pick ‘n Pay, Shoprite and Spar for playing open cards.
But not Woolworths.
While Woolies also dumped all their cold meats and refunded customers, their statement wouldn’t indicate who their suppliers are.
Of course, mense put two and two together and worked out that it’s Enterprise.
But obviously larney Woolies wouldn’t want to shout it from the rooftops that they stock Enterprise like all the rest, but with their own packaging and moerse mark-ups.
After enough pressure on social media, they eventually came clean.
Woolies spokespeople were at pains to point out that even though their vleis comes from Enterprise, they have their own separate production lines, quality controls and recipes at the same factories.
The reaction from Tiger Brands, of which Enterprise is a subsidiary, wasn’t satisfactory either.
CEO Lawrence McDougall said the company was putting the well-being of South Africans first – following the outbreak which has reportedly claimed 180 lives to date.
However, asked if Tiger Brands would be taking responsibility, MacDougall said: “We are taking precautions to protect the consumers. There is no direct link with the deaths to our products that we are aware of at this point. Nothing.”
That was the desperate denial of a boss whose company is now losing billions of rands every day.
It’s a heavy price to pay.
It wouldn’t be the first time Tiger Brands has made headlines for the wrong reasons.
The food giant also had to fork out R100 million in 2007 after admitting to bread price-fixing.
So let this be a lesson to everyone.
To the consumers, watch what you eat.
To the government, watch what you allow into the country.
To the manufacturers, check everything.

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