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Motsoaledi: Govt can’t be blamed for listeriosis outbreak

During a debate in the National Assembly on Thursday Motsoaledi said his department moved as fast as it could to detect the source of the outbreak.

Minster of Health Aaron Motsoaledi updating the media on listeria outbreak in South Africa. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN – Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says government can't be blamed for the listeriosis outbreak that has killed at least 180 people.

During a debate in the National Assembly on Thursday, Motsoaledi said that his department moved as fast as it could to detect the source of the outbreak.

Motsoaledi told MPs that the bacteria was only picked up in July last year and not in January as has been suggested.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) says government must shoulder the blame for the lack of health inspections, while the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) says Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken must come to Parliament to be held accountable.

Motsoaledi says the situation can’t be equated to the deaths of mental healthcare patients under his watch.

“Life Esidimeni was a mistake committed in government and the government took responsibility and is being punished. Listeriosis has been committed by a private sector company and that’s why you want to blame government again.”

Opposition parties want Enterprise and Rainbow Foods to be held accountable and to pay compensation to those infected by listeriosis.

Motsoaledi acknowledged that the country is failing in environmental health inspections but says the Health Department could not have moved any faster in identifying the listeria outbreak.

Opposition parties say there are not enough health inspections being carried out at food processing plants and informal food stalls.

Motsoaledi said environmental health inspection is the responsibility of municipalities, but there’s a countrywide shortage of 3,300 inspectors.

“It was a mistake for the Constitution to give that job to local government because municipalities can’t simply afford it because they’ve got basic services to provide.”

Motsoaledi said listeriosis has, until now, never been a notifiable disease in South Africa and there was no way to have picked it up sooner.

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