Tiger Brands following ‘legal process’ to determine liability for listeriosis outbreak

The foods which were linked to listeria are Enterprise Russians‚ Rainbow Chicken polony and Enterprise polony.
Image: 123RF/ John Mcnamara

Tiger Brands has declined to respond in detail to an article published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine indicating that the source of the listeriosis outbreak in SA was its Enterprise factory in Polokwane, Limpopo.

“There is a legal process currently under way to determine liability for the outbreak. As a company, Tiger Brands is committed to following the legal process with honesty and integrity. We hope for a resolution as soon as possible for all parties concerned,” company spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said in a written reply to TimesLIVE.

The article to which she was reacting fingered the company as being behind the world’s biggest listeriosis outbreak — in SA.

Authored by 31 scientists, health professionals and academics, including nine employees of the Centre for Enteric Diseases in the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), the article revealed how “whole genome sequencing” technology overwhelmingly proved that the source of the outbreak was polony produced by Enterprise.

The authors, led by Dr Juno Thomas of the NICD, did not name the source in the article, referring to the Polokwane plant as “the production facility”.

Samples taken from nine children at a Soweto creche who fell ill and were taken to hospital in mid-January after eating polony identified a specific strain of listeria monocytogenes ST6, which was subsequently found in polony in the creche’s fridge, sealed polony loaves at the Polokwane plant and in environmental samples taken in the plant.

The authors thanked paediatrician Dr Preeteeben Vallabh at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital “for her recognition of the nursery outbreak” when the children were admitted.

In December 2018, the Johannesburg high court granted an order certifying a class action against Tiger Brands which should  determine whether the company is liable for the outbreak.

The legal case relies on the fact that the outbreak strain of listeria monocytogenes, which infected 91% of the people who died‚ was found at the Polokwane factory.

Read more of the story on TimesLIVE




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