Kenya has banned the importation and sale of processed meat products from South Africa after a listeria outbreak was traced to ready-to-eat meat. Listeriosis can be caught from food containing listeria bacteria, or close contact with farm animals.

There have been 948 cases of listeria poisoning in South Africa reported since January 2017, according to Reuters – which the UN calls the largest outbreak ever.

“Reference is made to the outbreak of listeriosis in South Africa associated with products from Enterprise food production factory and Rainbow Chicken limited. The products from Enterprise include Bokkie, Renown, Lifestyle and Mielikip while those from Rainbow are Polony, Russin and Viennas,” said Director of Public Health, Kepha Ombacho.

The Health ministry has also recalled all the products that are already in the market, asking retailers not put them up for sale. Kenya will be joining Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana and Zambia who have followed suit in suspending the importation. Symptoms include high temperature, flu-like symptoms, vomiting and diarrhoea. Most people infected display no symptoms, but elderly and very young people are vulnerable.

According to South African trade Think tank, Tralac, “Trade between South Africa and Kenya has been minimal when considering South Africa’s global trade. From a global perspective, Kenya is ranked 27th amongst South Africa’s export destinations accounting for just about 1 percent of South Africa’s total exports.”  In terms of imports, reports Tralac, “Kenya, does not feature even in the top 30 import suppliers to the South African market. However, when considering the African market, the Kenya is ranked 10th export destination for South Africa’s goods and is ranked 22nd most important import source from Africa.”

The ban is, however, a negligible scratch on the South African exports.

According to think-tank, “since 2007, South Africa has always maintained a trade surplus with Kenya, although in recent years, the gap has been reducing. In 2016, South Africa’s exports to Kenya were almost US$ 560 million (Sh56b) while imports were a mere US$ 19.8 million (Sh56bn).

By Hillary Orinde