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Listeriosis outbreak puts fragile value chain in spotlight - expert

Mar 06 2018 06:39
Carin Smith

Cape Town - The ripple effect of the outbreak of listeriosis in certain processed meat products in South Africa has identified the fragility of the industry's value chain, Professor Andre Louw, chair of Agribusiness Management at the University of Pretoria, told Fin24 on Monday.

He said the outbreak has shown this is something that can occur right from the production stage up to supermarkets, finally impacting consumers.

"The fact that it is contagious is of concern and implies further action needs to be taken from a health and safety point of view," said Louw.

He pointed out that initial uncertainty about the source of the outbreak and the fact that it could not be determined accurately at first led to some speculation.

"The fact that the sources have now been determined, from both a product and geographic point of view, has led to different companies taking swift action which is commendable," he said.

Reputation and consumer safety

Louw emphasised the outbreak also highlights the issue of the reputation of companies, saying the way these items is produced needs to be revisited and re-evaluated in terms of possible negative impacts on these and further products.

"The issue of not only the physical and health risks come to play, but also what companies will do to reposition these types of produce. Many questions are certainly going to be asked about the way the products are produced and the level of contamination that could take place. Steps therefore have to be taken to ensure the health, safety and protection of the consumer."

In Louw's view, the producers will have to reposition these items so that buyers can feel they are safe to consume. He said this fact has been illustrated by that fact that so many goods have already been withdrawn from almost all supermarkets which carry them. This implies the outbreak could have a longer lasting impact on the minds of consumers and the ability to market the products.

"I would say it could especially have an impact on the lower income groups, in that these are relatively lower priced products providing protein to them. They will probably seek alternative products and there might also be special efforts from the producers and supermarkets to ensure and convince consumers that in future products will be far safer and healthier to buy and consume," said Louw.

"The issue of trust becomes extremely important as well as the issue of the interdependency of stakeholders along the value chain. It will certainly be tested in future regarding these products."

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listeriosis  |  retail  |  agriculture  |  meat


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