Food & Drinks

Listeria outbreak survivor shares impact of illness

A man who was sickened in South Africa’s Listeria outbreak has described how his life fell apart after getting ill.

Joseph Kadango, who lives in Johannesburg, spent months in hospital after becoming infected, lost his job and couldn’t support his family.

He used to buy meat such as Russians, Viennas, chicken and polony for breakfast while shopping.

“After a month they stopped and said we don’t sell that stuff anymore here and it is at that time the listeriosis started for me. They said bring it back but I couldn’t take these things back as I had eaten most of them already. I took all the polony, viennas and Russians of Enterprise and threw them in the dustbin,” he told Food Safety News.

“When I was in hospital I told my brother you must avoid those things in the bin. It is no good to eat. Now I don’t eat polony, Russians or viennas but some other people buy it. I don’t have that stuff anymore, I am afraid to eat it.”

Months in hospital
After feeling sick for a few days, the 44 year old went to see a doctor.

“I thought something was wrong and I started to feel unwell with flu symptoms and then after two days I still had a headache and feeling dizzy so I was not feeling very well. When I went to the doctor’s they said I was not OK and it was some disease. They checked me, gave me an X-ray and saw something and said it was listeriosis from something I ate. They asked me what I ate all the time. I was vomiting, my head was paining, my brain was confused and I was just like a child,” said Kadango.

Joseph Kadango

“I was in hospital for three months and after that they checked me and gave me an injection. I was vomiting too much and not eating. They did something to my spinal cord to drain fluid. Now I am feeling well and getting better, it is not like before when it was very bad.”

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The 2017 and 2018 listeriosis outbreak in South Africa was linked to ready-to-eat (RTE) meat products and caused more than 1,050 illnesses and at least 218 deaths.

It was traced in March 2018 to a RTE processed meat product called polony made at a factory in Polokwane run by Enterprise Foods, then-owned by Tiger Brands. In August 2020, Tiger Brands agreed to sell its processed meats division, which includes Enterprise Foods.

No one to support the family
Kadango is now unemployed. He had a business selling items including clothes and shoes before getting ill. He lives at home with three younger brothers and his child, a 16-year-old boy.

“At that time I was working and my business was going well but when I was sick everything started to get complicated with my child going to school,” he said.

“When I was doing the business I was getting profit to help my child and help my family buy food. When I got sick, it was very bad because everyone in my family was looking after me so there was no-one to help them. I didn’t have anything in that time because every time they come to hospital to bring something to me, they used the transport.

“Sometimes in my house there was no food and no one to look after my child it was a very bad situation. Something like this affected me, which is why I never go far. The one I was doing business with is going very far now and he has a big business. I am still here at home with the lockdown and not doing any work.”

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He had never heard of listeriosis before getting sick.

“The time it was starting I saw it on TV but I didn’t know anyone who got listeriosis. I heard about it and some of the problems. In my province, I think I got it and another person. Some of the people I saw on TV were explaining about listeriosis.”

Kadango said he was not sure what the future holds for him.

“I try to go somewhere and see my family and do something else. Most of the things are not the same as before I was that sick with listeriosis, it has affected me a lot. It is affecting my life because most of my friends and family said you was wonderful before. Now, you are not going anywhere and doing this and this. I say to them this thing is very dangerous,” he said.

“The family was feeling very bad and me too, I was confused too much. In my life it is only me, they all depend on me as I am the old man in the family. I also had to look after one of my brothers who was ill but he is better now. Since last time I was trying to do something like a business and if I get a job I am going to work but there are not many jobs here with the lockdown.”

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