After 180 deaths and nearly 1,000 ill consumers, the source of the Listeria outbreak in South Africa has finally been named.

The culprit, according to a notice authored by Dr. Aaron Motsoaledi, South Africa’s Minister of Health, is a cold, processed meat product manufactured by the country’s largest consumer food producer.

The products in question are actually two different brands of “polony”, similar to what others may refer to as bologna or bologna sausage. Those brands are manufactured by the Tiger Brands unit of Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken Limited.

Approximately 93 percent of the victims that were interviewed say they had eaten ready-to-eat (RTE) processed meat products, the most common of which was polony, followed by viennas/sausages and other ‘cold meats’.

Now, South Africa’s National Consumer Commission has issued safety recall notices to the food manufacturers above, naming polony in addition to smoked russians, frankfurters, and Rainbow brand chicken products. Consumers are also being advised not to eat any RTE meat products.

“While we know that polony is definitely implicated, there is a risk of cross-contamination of other ready-to-eat processed meat products, either at production, distribution or retail. This is because Listeria on the exterior casing (packaging) of polony can be transferred to other products it comes into contact with, including viennas, russians, frankfurters, other sausages, and other ‘cold meat’ products that are typically not cooked before eating.”

While the product recalls are expected to curtail the persistence of the outbreak, it cannot be estimated how soon the illnesses and even deaths will come to an end.

The Listeria outbreak is the worst of its kind in recorded history.

See the Minister of Health’s Media Statement 

More on ready-to-eat meat safety:

Listeriosis: A Grim Reality for the Food Industry
Environmental Monitoring in the Era of Whole Genome Sequencing 
Principles of Environmental Pathogen Control 
Managing the Microbiological Safety and Stability of Ready-to-Eat Meat 
Listeria Monocytogenes: Controlling the Hazard in RTE Meat and Poultry Processing Environments