By Akhona Matshoba
This article can also be found in the print Edition 2 of VARSITY Newspaper.
How has UCT tackled the listeriosis outbreak on campus and at our residences?
On the 4th of March 2018, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced that an investigation conducted by the Health Department had managed to trace the listeriosis outbreak to Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken products. Giving that listeriosis is a matter of concern to students, Varsity sought to find out how UCT has handled the matter at the various campuses and residences. With listeriosis being linked to the death of more than 180 people since its outbreak, Varsity communicated with UCT’s Media liason Elijah Moholola to find out more on UCT’s efforts to minimise casualties.
Although no official correspondence between the university and food vendors was issued, UCT claims to have addressed the issue of the listeriosis outbreak with the food vendors through regular engagements between the parties concerned. According to Elijah Maholola, food vendors are required, as stipulated by health and safety regulations, to pass food and hygiene tests in order to be allowed to sell their products on campus. “The university conducts regular unannounced food safety and hygiene tests via an independent company,” he stated. Vendors who fail to meet these standards are then considered by the university to be in breach of their lease agreements.
According to Moholola, the university has made sure to notify catering staff in the residences about the outbreak. He added that they have also communicated with their procurement contractor who has “assured UCT that all the products procured for the university are safe and have not come in contact with any of the affected products”. “Hygiene is a critical part of the day-to-day catering operation. The units are inspected at regular intervals by an independent service provider. The last inspection was carried out between February and March this year with no bacteria alerts resulting out of it”, stated Moholola.
When asked if UCT had warned students about the listeriosis outbreak and its dangers, Moholola stated that the university had placed notices in the dining hall to caution students. Despite not having officially communicated with students about the listeriosis outbreak, UCT seeks to assure students that measures to protect them from the Listeria bacteria are being taken. For instance, as Moholola states: “samples of all food prepared in residence kitchens are kept for 72 hours and this allows traceability in cases of any foodborne bacteria outbreak.”