Tons of recalled meat are headed for public landfill sites – and that could spell an entirely new disaster

Business Insider SA
Birds seen scavenging at a dumping site near Turffontein in Johannesburg.
  • Public landfill sites are being prepared to accommodate recalled meat that could be tainted with listeria, the cities of Cape Town and Tshwane have confirmed.
  • An expert warns the dumped meat will be easily be accessible to people scavenging for food – and that may spread listeriosis further.
  • Supermarkets are scrambling to find enough refrigeration space to safely store the recalled products until it can be disposed of.

The recall of millions of tons of possible listeria infected cold meat is set to create another crisis – when it is dumped at hundreds of public landfill sites scattered across the country.

And disposing of the cold meats in public landfill sites could spell "disaster", said Pieter Kruger from the Waste Group.

The City of Cape Town and Tshwane confirmed to Business Insider South Africa that public landfill sites are being prepared to accommodate the recalled meat. 

Until then supermarkets are scrambling to find enough refrigeration space to safely store the cold meats from Enterprise Foods and Rainbow chicken associated with the death of over 180 people in the country. 

See also: High-tech sleuthing helped SA scientists find the DNA ‘fingerprint’ of deadly listeria – and save lives

People scavenging at the Marie Louise landfill site in Soweto.

Kruger said Waste Group is preparing to use trenching to dispose the affected meat from its clients across the country. 

Trenching is a process where meat effectively buried in a hole 1.5 metres deep.

But that may not be enough.

"Unless you dispose of the meat in closed, fenced-of landfill sites, the meat will be dug out by people looking for food which could help spread listeriosis," Kruger told Business Insider South Africa. 

"Private landfill sites, like ours, adhere to strict audits from the department of environmental affairs – but most public landfill sites are open and wholly accessible to the public."

READ: These are all the meat products that have been recalled so far

Incineration of recalled meat is one option his company is considering, EnviroServ waste management marketing director Ryan van Heerden said.

While landfill sites pose threats of the meats being recovered by desperate people, the country likely does not have the capacity to safely incinerate the vast quantity of meat, he said.

"It is definitely something the department of environmental affairs has to address by next week. Until then the main thing is for people not to just dispose of the meats in dustbins," Van Heerden told Business Insider.

"Take it to the supermarket for them to keep it," Van Heerden urged. "It's a massive logistical operation to source enough refrigeration for all the foods. Think of small town shops, garages and stores in informal settlements." 

Unhappy customers return products at an Enterprise outlet in Germiston, South Africa.

Pick and Pay told Business Insider South Africa that all recalled stock is packed into plastic bags which is isolated in a refrigerated area where it is collected by the suppliers concerned. 

"All fridges and food preparation areas in our stores will now be re-cleaned to prevent any cross-contamination," David North, Pick and Pay executive for strategy and corporate affairs, said. 

City of Tshwane spokesperson Samkelo Mgobozi said that task to "bury all materials identified by the Consumer Commission" is a "complex and cumbersome" one. 

He said the city is working hard particularly in poorer communities to avoid cross-contamination. 

City of Cape Town mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services JP Smith said the city generally dispose of food waste in a solid waste facility in Vissershok – which is just six kilometres from the highly populated Dunoon settlement. 

Enterprise Foods and Rainbow Chicken could not be reached for comment. 

The department of health referred all enquiries to the department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries (DAFF). 

DAFF spokesperson Bomikazi Molapo said the recall was instituted by the National Consumer Commission and the suspension of production issued by the Department of Health. 

"Therefore DAFF will not be involved in the disposal of the products," Molapo told Business Insider South Africa via text message. 

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