South African food giant Tiger Brands said late on Wednesday it had received confirmation of the presence of the LST6 listeria strain in samples taken from its Enterprise Polokwane processed meat facility.
“The Enterprise facilities in Polokwane, Pretoria and Germiston still remain closed while remedial work continues,” the company said.
Tiger Brands initially strongly denied responsibility for the deadly outbreak of listeriosis, which has claimed nearly 200 lives since late last year.
Government ordered the company in March to recall its Enterprise cold meat products and immediately shut down their two manufacturing facilities in Polokwane, Limpopo, and Germiston, Gauteng.
The department detected the same strain of the listeria bacterium LST6 at both facilities. Around 900 cases of listeriosis had been reported around the country at the time.
Although Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall was grilled at his press conference over the deaths, he insisted there was no verified evidence at his disposal linking the deaths to Enterprise products, only that the bacterium had been found at their facilities.
“There has been no direct correlation between our products and the deaths yet, so we are unaware of any direct link,” he told journalists. “Listen, I cannot guess as to what the link might be, and all I can confirm at the moment is that there is no link. So there are no links directly [related] to the deaths.”
They have not yet decided on whether they will be opposing the looming class action lawsuits against them, but will oppose the fact that two separate applications have been filed against them simultaneously.
Two law firms, Richard Spoor Attorneys and LHL Attorneys, filed separate class actions against Tiger Brands to the High Court in Johannesburg for certification to provide monetary compensation to the hundreds of victims and families who claim to have been affected by listeriosis.
Enterprise Foods is a subsidiary of Tiger Brands.
Spokesperson Nevashnee Naicker said: “We are opposing the fact that two class actions were brought against us at the same time. Procedurally, and from a law perspective, it is not possible to have two class actions, that are issued at the same time and competing against one another, so we are opposing it.”
She said the company needed to wait for the court to decide what the best option was, and that the company had reserved its right to respond to the applications laid against them.
“We need [the courts] to decide which of the [two] class actions should go ahead, or whether a hybrid of the two class actions need to go ahead. Because as a company, or any company for that matter, [we] will not be able to face two class actions concurrently,” she said.
Naicker said the matter was a “legal administrative process” with timelines, and confirmed that the class actions had not been started yet as they awaited the court’s decision.
– African News Agency (ANA)