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Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa on Friday assured South Africans that all foodstuffs contaminated with the deadly Listeria monocytogenes bacterium are safely disposed of.

There has been a fear that waste pickers might consume the unopened ready-to-eat meat products that had been recalled and which households had disposed of.

The health department on Sunday announced that that the source of listeria‚ which has caused more than 180 deaths‚ had been located at an Enterprise Foods manufacturing facility in Limpopo.

Molewa expressed concern that the recall had caused panic‚ resulting in residents putting processed meat-based food products‚ including polony‚ Russians and viennas‚ into their refuse bins‚ which could expose waste pickers at the bins and at municipal landfills to the deadly bacterium.

She said this took place before the announcements from outlets that food products could be brought in to the various outlets across the country.

A number of measures had been put in place to deal with the disposal of the contaminated waste‚ the minister said.

The food will be accepted for treatment at a licensed incineration‚ non-burn or co-processing facility‚ or at a Class A landfill. These landfills are specially designed and engineered for hazardous waste and are not accessible to waste pickers.

She said her department had moved to ensure that measures to prevent any negative consequence of the disposal of these products were urgently put in place.

“Waste treatment and disposal facilities have been made aware of these measures as well as provincial and municipal authorities.”

She said provincial departments of environment‚ municipal environmental health practitioners and officials of the National Department of Environmental Affairs were creating awareness among waste pickers of the risks associated with the contaminated food. 

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