Listeriosis is caused by a bacterium found in soil, water and vegetation.
The disease causes flu-like symptoms and can lead to nausea, diarrhoea, infection of the bloodstream and brain.
The department has not found the origin of the outbreak but suspects food contamination at the source, such as farms or food processing plants.
"The source of this outbreak is now being investigated, and all the stakeholders are cooperating with the investigation led by the NICD (National Institute for Communicale Diseases)", he said. "Environmental health officers are following up diagnosed cases and are visiting their homes to sample food where available", said Motsoaledi.
"We believe it indicates the source of the outbreak is likely to be a food product that is widely distributed and consumed by people across all socio-economic groups". Motsoaledi said of those 70 cases, 36 patients have since died.
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Listeriosis is a foodborne illness associated with a wide variety of foods, including dairy, meat, vegetables, fruit, and ready-to-eat products.
The deaths were reported out of the 557 laboratory confirmed cases tracing from January 1 to November 29 this year, according to the Department of Health.
The source of this outbreak is now being investigated, and all the stakeholders are cooperating with the investigation led by the NICD.
"Most cases have been reported from Gauteng province, which accounts for 62 percent of the cases, followed by the Western Cape which accounts for 13 percent", he said.
Members of the public can contact the NICD emergency operations centre during working hours (011 386 2000) or the NICD hotline for clinical emergencies after hours (082 883 9920).