Manufacturer of fast-moving consumer goods, Tiger Brands, today refused to take responsibility for the outbreak of food-borne listeriosis in the country, denying any direct links between the deaths of 180 people and its products.
At a press conference in Johannesburg on Monday afternoon, Tiger Brands chief executive Laurence MacDoughall said that consumer safety was of paramount importance to the company, hence it had decided to embark on a voluntary recall of its products as part of corrective steps in response to the health department identifying processed meats as one of the sources of the food-borne virus.
The number of laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases currently stands at over 900.
MacDoughall admitted that they had detected low levels of listeriosis in February, but said that affected products were quarantined and production of affected products had been halted.
“There is no direct link or correlation with the deaths to our products, not that we are aware of at this point. I cannot apologise for something I am not clear about. I am not aware of any civil lawsuit against the company,” MacDoughall said.
“We have always acted with urgency whenever the Department of Health or the National Consumer Commission made us aware of any concerns. Our products have consistently tested below the 10 CFUs/g testing.”
MacDoughall said the company does not support any allegations of lowered quality regimes of testing, and that the company observes high quality standards and protocols, and is currently working on improving and completely eliminating the listeria strain at its manufacturing plants.
He also said they were still working on the current financial ramifications of the product recalls after their share price dropped seven percent in early trade.
Tiger Brands had been forced to recall all their ready-to-eat products from retail shelves after health minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi ordered a recall of processed meat manufactured by Enterprise and Rainbow Chicken Limited.
Motsoaledi confirmed that the source of the present outbreak was the Tiger Brands subsidiary Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane.
The results of testing showed that ready-to-eat processed meat products from the Enterprise facility located in Germiston contains L. monocytogenes, even though the sequence type is unknown.