Listeriosis: Class action looms after polony panic

2018-03-11 06:00
Enterprise factory in Germiston, east of Johannesburg. (Lerato Sejake, News24)

Enterprise factory in Germiston, east of Johannesburg. (Lerato Sejake, News24)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

As calls mount for the families of the 183 people who died from the listeriosis outbreak to launch a class action, Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall believes it’s still too early to make that decision.

However, he said, the company would face each case on “its merits”.

The dominant outbreak strain of the food-borne disease, ST6, was officially confirmed to be present at the company’s Enterprise Foods Polokwane factory this week.

“We’ll have to deal with [the class action] when we get to it, right now our focus is on food safety. Our immediate priority has been to shut our facilities, stop deliveries and withdraw our products from the shelves,” MacDougall told City Press on Friday evening.

The day before, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi had assured South Africans in a parliamentary debate that his department would help any family with the necessary information and data on the outbreak and disease should they want to sue the company.

“We are prepared to help families in whatever way, including giving them information and data, even advice if they so wish to litigate,” he said.

MacDougall, however, maintained that no direct link had been established yet between its products and the deaths resulting from the listeriosis outbreak.

“It is premature to speculate,” MacDougall said.

The World Health Organisation labelled the country’s outbreak as the largest recorded in the world. A total of 967 cases had been reported since January last year, with a rising death toll of 183 – 79 of which were newborn babies.

Yesterday law firm Richard Spoor Incorporated announced it had teamed up with top US food safety firm Marler Clark to file a class action against Tiger Brands on behalf of the victims’ families.

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema said his party would instruct its lawyers to file court papers instituting legal action this coming week.

Tiger Brands closed its Enterprise facilities in Polokwane and Germiston this week and said it had withdrawn 3 500 tons of ready-to-eat processed meat, which would be incinerated according to guidelines set out by the National Consumer Commission.

Enterprise reportedly produces 60 000 tons of processed meat every year at the two plants.

Polony products from Rainbow Chicken’s Wolwehoek facility also tested positive for the bacterium, but the sequence type hadn’t been confirmed yet as the deadly ST6 strain. The polony products were recalled by the company this week, as the health department continued its investigation into the facility.

When City Press visited the Enterprise facility in Polokwane this week, several workers confirmed they were deep-cleaning the machinery and had been told they would be continuing with cleaning operations next week. They did not know when they would return to their regular food-processing jobs.

The company still maintained on Friday that, through its testing, it had been “well within” the Listeria guidelines as per the SA National Standard for Processed Meat Products. According to regulations, a certain level of Listeria bacteria is allowed – less than 100 colony forming units (CFUs). Tiger Brands said its swabs measured 10 CFUs.

“The industry has not been guided on what the infectious dose of ST6 is in products – in other words, while the government standard for Listeria is below 100 CFU, the industry has not been informed about the level of ST6 that could make you sick. Enterprise Foods is [now] applying a measured standard of “not detected’,” company spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said.

Asked if any of the employees at either Enterprise facilities had contracted the disease, Naicker said: “None that we are aware of. We have, however, begun health monitoring and screening employees at the two facilities, in consultation with the union.”

The company said it had brought in independent experts on the bacterium to help provide scientific expertise. But it did not know how long the facilities would be closed.

MacDougall said: “The health and safety of our customers is our number one priority. I am deeply concerned by the detection of ST6 in our factory. With our staff, business partners and the relevant authorities we are working to mitigate any further risks to consumers.

“We are well advanced in the national recall of all ready-to-eat chilled processed meat products, which we initiated on Sunday. We will leave no stone unturned to get to the bottom of this to ensure it does not happen again.”

Read more on:    tiger brands  |  enterprise  |  health  |  listeriosis

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News
Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.