Johannesburg - A devastated mother alleges her baby was born prematurely when she was six months pregnant and lived for only a day because of the deadly listeria bacteria, which has claimed the lives of more than 180 people across South Africa.
"I used to eat polony in the mornings as a snack," said the Pretoria resident, who has asked not be named.
She said one morning in December 2017, she suddenly felt ill.
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"I felt so cold and asked my husband to take me to the hospital. When I arrived, I told the doctor that I was scared of listeriosis and she said she had no idea what that was."
The woman was allegedly given a paracetamol drip to treat her fever.
"A few minutes later she (the doctor) told me that she just checked her computer and she saw an email about listeriosis... because she was on leave she had not read her emails and that is the reason why she didn't know about it."
'Things happened so fast'
The doctor assured the mother-to-be that she had nothing to worry about.
She later returned to the hospital after she had been discharged.
"After I was discharged, I felt so much pain. I went to the doctor and he did a scan and told me that the baby must be delivered.
"He immediately booked me into a hospital and from there, things happened so fast. I was shaking and sweating."
The woman's water broke and she eventually gave birth to a baby boy.
"The baby was so tiny, and, the baby died the following day. This is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone. I cry a lot when I think about it."
Baby plan derailed
She said the cause of the baby's death is stated in the death certificate as natural causes, but claims the paediatrician confirmed to her that it was listeriosis.
News24 could not confirm the details with the hospital because of doctor and patient confidentiality.
Struggling to cope with the loss, the mother relied on anxiety pills to get by.
READ: What listeriosis stole from us
"I am better now, although I still cry every now and then because I was supposed to give birth only next month."
She said the baby would have been her second child.
"The plan was to have two kids before the age of 35. I am 32."
Biggest outbreak documented
She said she did not know that she had to report the matter to the department of health until a friend of hers advised her to.
"But I still didn't report it. I thought maybe the hospitals, including private hospitals, would submit the stats to the department," she said.
The South African outbreak of listeriosis has been described by the World Health Organisation as the biggest documented.
Earlier this month Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the deadly listeria bacteria had been traced to Enterprise's Polokwane facility, which manufactures processed cold meat products. Products including polony, Viennas and Russians were then recalled.
Enterprise Foods confirmed last week that it had received a report from the Department of Health confirming the presence of the Listeria monocytogenes ST6 (LST6) strain at its Polokwane factory.
Call for accountability
The company said it received the report last Thursday after environmental swabs were taken at the factory on February 2.
"Our Polokwane and Germiston factories remain closed while we conduct a deep-cleaning process," Lawrence MacDougall, CEO at Tiger Brands, said.
The deceased baby's mother said she feels like the deaths could have been prevented and that this incident shows that Tiger Brands placed profits above the lives of its consumers.
"They need to account for what has happened, one death was [one] too many. How can they pride themselves on producing quality products when their products are killing people?
"Their negligence has robbed families of their loved ones. One hundred and eighty is way too high a number. This has robbed me and my husband of the opportunity to have a second child," she said.
Department of Health spokesperson Popo Maja said it was extremely difficult to comment on the matter, but added that the department would be investigating the mother's claims.
Tiger Brands distances itself from outbreak
Maja said the bacteria became a known notifiable disease in November.
"We have pinned a source of the disease but we cannot monitor what people are consuming. If people can help us by doing all the things that we asked them to do, then people will be fine."
Tiger Brands' spokesperson Nivashnee Naicker said the company had spoken to the mother and advised her to speak to the hospital to report the matter to the relevant authorities.
"The doctors need to make sure that the baby's blood is checked to confirm that it was listeriosis because she gave conflicting information. One version was that the baby died because of natural death and another was that the baby died of listeriosis."
At this point in time, like we have been saying, although it is tragic, we do not have the tests from our products saying that our products are linked to listeriosis," said Naicker.
She said the company had launched a campaign to educate its consumers about how to deal with listeriosis.
The most important thing, she said, was that the company had shut down the affected facilities until it gets to the bottom of the matter.
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