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The Department of Basic Education (DBE) would like to reassure parents, learners and members of the public that there are no processed meat products used as part of the National School Nutrition Programme. This is in light of revelations announced by the Minister of Health, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi regarding the source of a deadly listeriosis outbreak.
The Minister announced yesterday that the source of the outbreak was found to be processed meat products such as polony, veinna sausages and other processed cold meat products often consumed by children.
The food served to over nine million learners daily as part of the NSNP is safe and excludes these types of meat products. However we would like parents and the greater school community to remain vigilant as these food items often form part of packed lunches or are sold to learners by external food vendors outside of schools or at tuckshops.
Listeriosis is a serious disease that has already taken the lives of 180 people since January this year. However it is preventable and treatable. To this end the DBE has issued a circular to all provincial education departments and schools on measures to take in order to prevent the spread of listeriosis.
We have advised schools of the following:
- Volunteer Food Handlers should maintain a high level of personal hygiene and wash hands at all times. Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Ensure safe preparation, cooking, serving of meals and cleaning the cooking area.
- Learners should wash any fruit bought from the school vendor before consuming it.
- Practice basic food hygiene principles as outlined in the World Health Organisation’s ‘Five Keys to Safer Food’ programme. The core ‘commandments’ of food hygiene are:
1. Keep clean: wash your hands before handling food and often during food preparation.
2. Separate raw and cooked: separate raw meat, poultry and seafood from other foods.
3. Cook thoroughly: cook foods thoroughly, especially meat, poultry, eggs and seafood.
4. Keep food at safe temperatures: refrigerate and reheat foods correctly.
5. Use safe water and raw materials: use safe water or make it safe (by boiling); choose foods processed for safety such as pasteurised dairy products; wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly, especially if eaten.
We encourage teachers and parents to report to the nearest health care facility if learners present with diarrhoea, headache, neck stiffness, confusion, loss of balance and flu like symptoms. In instances where children are involved it is better to be safe than sorry as this is a preventable and treatable disease.
We urge parents to heed the advice from Health Minister Motsoaledi when preparing lunch boxes for their children to ensure that it contains no food items that may carry liseriosis.
The Department of Health advises members of the public to avoid all processed meat products that are sold as ready-to-eat. 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.
Issued by Department of Basic Education