Quick Guide to Listeriosis in South Africa

What is it?

It is bacterium found in contaminated soil, water, vegetation, poultry, cattle and milk.

Brands affected?


Rainbow (RCL Foods)

Retailers that have implemented recalls or refunds?


Pick n Pay

Food Lovers Market Gorup


Who is most at risk?

People with healthy immune systems who eat food contaminated with listeria usually don’t get sick. If they do, their listeria symptoms are usually mild. People most at risk are:

  • People with weak immune systems
  • People over the age of 65
  • Pregnant women and the fetus and;
  • Infants

How do you get infected?

  1. First, someone has to eat or ingest the listeria bacteria.
  2. Then, the person’s immune system must fail to kill the bacteria in the stomach or gut. The bacteria then reproduce and spread inside the intestines, making people feel sick.
  3. If the bacteria spreads to the blood, spinal fluid or other organs, the infection can be very serious and even life-threatening.
  4. Most healthy people do not get listeria symptoms, even after exposure, because their body is able to fight off the bacteria by itself.

Avoid the most common contaminated food sources:

In South Africa it has been isolated to polony but because of the possibility of cross contamination, be weary of viennas, russians, frankfurters, other sausages and cold meats not typically cooked.

Generally the below are also at risk of contamination:

  • Unpasteurized milk and cheeses. While raw milk has many health benefits, it’s important that it comes from a reputable, safe source and is consumed within the appropriate timeframe. However, if you’re pregnant or at high-risk for listeriosis, it’s best to avoid unpasteurized dairy products.
  • Soft, fresh cheeses (such as queso fresco, queso blanco, brie, Camembert or feta) unless they are labelled as made with pasteurized milk
  • Ice cream
  • Deli meats and hot dogs
  • Raw meats or fish
  • Raw or lightly cooked sprouts (such as alfalfa, mung bean, radish or clover sprouts)


Most people who become sick from listeria have symptom onset within 1 to 4 weeks of eating affected food.

Symptoms of listeria infection that has spread past the gut (invasive listeriosis) include:

  • Flu-like symptoms, such as feeling very tired (fatigue) or having achy muscles
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Joint pain
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Confusion
  • Convulsions (being shaky or having seizures)


Serious listeria infection is treated with antibiotics. Consult your doctor.

These natural treatments can help you recover from mild food poisoning (such as diarrhoea, fever, fatigue and muscle aches) caused by listeria bacteria:

  • Rest: Take it easy until your symptoms subside.
  • Hydrate: Even small sips of water or an electrolyte drink, such as coconut water, will help your body replenish fluids.
  • Eat a bland diet: Focus on toast, bananas, rice and other bland foods until you feel up to a regular diet.
  • Use heat or cold: Soothe aching muscles with a heating pad or ice pack for 15 minutes at a time.
  • Treat your fever: Take a lukewarm bath or try these other natural ways to reduce a fever.


https://draxe.com/listeria-symptoms/ Katherine Brind’Amour, PhD

https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/listeriosis-outbreak-what-you-need-to-know-20180305 Kaveel Singh and Tammy Petersen

https://www.health24.com/News/Public-Health/quiz-how-much-do-you-know-about-the-deadly-listeriosis-outbreak-20171206 Compiled by Mandy Freeman


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