Tiger Brands, the company behind the killer polony scandal, has closed another factory because of traces of listeria. This was announced on Monday in a statement by the firm. Meanwhile, it announced it faces class action claims over the listeria outbreak, and is looking at stiff losses. Together they could add up to over R800m.
Tiger had already been forced to close its Polokwane and Germiston factories because of the food poisoning outbreak, and now its Pretoria facility – and an abbatoir – have also been hit.
“On Thursday,15 March, Tiger Brands received independent laboratory testing results that confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the physical plant environment at the Enterprise Foods Factory in Polokwane,” said the company.
”Our independent testing confirmed the findings of the Department of Health for the presence of ST6 strain of Listeria monocytogenes in the environment. In addition, there was a positive detection of Listeria ST6 (LST6) on the outer casing of two samples.”
However, the company, which is facing the threat of more than once class action, would not own up to any liability for the 180 or more deaths from listeria.
“Whether this presence of LST6 can be said to have caused any illness or death remains unclear at present and testing in that regard is an ongoing process likely to take time,” it said. “The Department of Health did not find the presence of Listeria in their product samples.
“Tiger Brands closed the Polokwane and Germiston Enterprise factories on 4 March 2018. These factories remain closed while we undertake efforts to understand how LST6 came into our factory. All of the Enterprise ready-to-eat meat products have been recalled and are no longer available for sale.”
Tiger then admitted that another factory had been found to be linked to listeria: “Tiger Brands continued extensive testing of our products and production facilities beyond Polokwane and Germiston, and discovered the presence of very low levels of Listeria at the Pretoria meat processing factory.
“Although the level detected was well within the range of government standards for the presence of Listeria, Tiger Brands has taken the precautionary measure of closing the factory and has instituted a product recall of all Snax products manufactured at the Pretoria factory, with immediate effect. In addition, we will be sending samples for genome sequencing to establish the specific strain of Listeria.
”Given the suspension of operations at the Polokwane, Germiston and Pretoria sites, which are the primary recipients of the production of the Company’s Clayville abattoir, operations at the Clayville abattoir will be wound down with the objective of suspending operations completely at the end of March 2018.”
Said Lawrence Mac Dougall, CEO of Tiger Brands: “Although no link has, as yet, been confirmed between the presence of LST6 at our Polokwane plant and the loss of life I deeply regret any loss of life and I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones. Any loss of life, no matter the circumstance, is tragic.
“We acknowledge that we are dealing with a national crisis and want to assure the public that in the event that a tangible link is established between our products and listeriosis illnesses or fatalities, Tiger Brands will take steps to consider and address any valid claims which may be made against it in due course.”
Tiger has said in a note to shareholders that it would lose hundreds of millions of rands as a result of the listeria issue.
In addition, it confirmed it was being hit by class action claims:
“On 16 March 2018, the Company was served with an application, for an order declaring the constitution of two classes for claims,” it announced.
“The first class comprises all persons who consumed a processed meat product manufactured by the Company and who became ill as a result of such food product being contaminated with Listeria at any time between 1 May 2017 to the date of issue of summons in a class action to be brought.
“The second class comprises the dependants of persons who consumed a processed meat product manufactured by the Company and who died as a result of such food product being contaminated with Listeria at any time between 1 May 2017 to the date of issue of summons in a class action to be brought.
“The applicant proposes that the class action be run on an opt-out basis. The total amount claimed against Tiger Brands and Enterprise Foods (Pty) Ltd is estimated at R425 million.”