The listeriosis outbreak has not only cleared supermarket delis, it’s also hammering small township food vendors who have long relied on polony, Russians and Viennas to fill their vetkoek.
Billy Ojo runs a small take-away on Freedom Way, Joe Slovo, selling vetkoek, often with fish, polony, Russians or Viennas.
“This shop is my only source of income. I am able to buy food to eat, pay rent and it has helped me take my daughter to university in Nigeria. But since the news broke about the problems with the polony and Russians, my business has been hit very hard.
“What I used to make in two days, I can’t even make it in seven days now, and I have had to throw away some of my stock because I can’t use it, and it will just rot if I leave it here,” said the 46-year-old.
Another Freedom Way take-away owner, Ncumisa Klaas, says she has been losing money since her customers started to shun cold meats. “We are not making money at all because people don’t want anything to do with polony, Viennas and Russians now. I would often sell to the school kids, but now we can’t, and that hits us hard.
“The principal of Sinenjongo (High School) has told us not to sell these products to the kids anymore. I sell ikota (bunny chow) and almost everything on the menu either has Viennas, polony or Russians.
“I also have two young men under my employment, and they have to get paid every week.”
She says people say things like: “I don’t want to die” when they come to the shop.
Sinenjongo High School principal Khuselwa Nopote said she had reached an agreement with neighbourhood food vendors that they would not sell anything with polony, Russians or Viennas in, to her pupils.
“I have not told them to stop selling everything because I understand that this is how people make ends meet.
“But until we get a clear vision from the Department of Health that it is safe to consume the goods again, we will not have people selling those products at the school,” said Ms Nopote.
JP Smith, Mayco member for safety and security and social services, said consumers and traders could return recalled products for a full refund from the retailers they had bought from.
“The management of the listeriosis outbreak and associated product recall is being handled by the national Department of Health,” he said.
“The City of Cape Town is purely acting in a supporting role to the national department.”
He advised food vendors to substitute listed products with other vetkoek fillings until the national department was satisfied that all contaminated products had been cleared from the supply chain.
The national department’s spokesman, Popo Maja, said it was too early to say when the recall would end.
For now, he said, people should avoid the foods that had been recalled.
“People must always practise hygiene. The food suppliers must avoid cross contamination and people preparing food in their homes should be extra careful,” said Mr Maja.