Institution of Class Action by Richard Spoor Attorneys, as well as results of tests carried out on behalf of the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (“NICD”) relating to the presence of Listeria monocytogenes ST6 (“LST6”).
On 29 March 2018, the Company and Enterprise Foods were served with an application issued by Richard Spoor Attorneys for an order declaring the constitution of four classes of claimants who will seek compensation from the Company and Enterprise Foods as a consequence of the involvement of the Company and Enterprise Foods in the listeriosis outbreak.
The applicants propose a class action comprising four classes of persons.
The first class comprises individuals who contracted listeriosis – but did not die – as a consequence of consuming Enterprise products. The second class comprises individuals who, while in utero, contracted listeriosis – but did not die – as a consequence of their mothers’ consuming Enterprise products. The third class comprises individuals who were dependent upon other individuals who contracted listeriosis and subsequently died as a consequence of consuming Enterprise products. The fourth class comprises individuals who are and/or were responsible for the maintenance of or were in fact maintaining, other individuals who contracted listeriosis from consuming Enterprise products, whether they died as a consequence of the infection or not.
The applicants propose to launch the class action in two stages. In the first stage, the applicants will seek a declaratory order establishing the nature and extent of the liability of the Company and Enterprise Foods to the various classes. The second stage, assuming liability is established, will be to determine whether the individual claimants ingested contaminated product, contracted Listeria, and suffered damages.
Stage one will proceed on an “opt out” basis; stage two will proceed on an “opt in” basis.
It is not possible at this early stage to calculate the damages to which the claimants would be entitled if the liability of the Company and Enterprise Foods is established.
Results of tests carried out on behalf of the NICD for the presence of LST6
On Wednesday 28 March 2018, the Department of Health provided the Company with a summary of results of culture identification and whole genome sequencing performed for the NICD based on Listeria monocytogenes isolates, which they indicated were obtained from ready-to-eat products produced by the Company’s Value-Added Meat Products division.
LST6 was found in seven of the products.
The Company has not had access to the underlying source material analysed on behalf of the NICD nor the details of the tests conducted. At this stage, these results have not been independently verified by the Company. The detailed investigations by the Company continue.
Message from Tiger Brands’ CEO
“It is extremely distressing that despite more than meeting food industry safety standards, there is an indication by the NICD that LST6 has been found in some of our products,” says CEO Lawrence Mac Dougall.
“While we continue our own detailed investigations to verify the NICD results, we remain committed to doing the right thing if any liability is established on our part for illness or death. I am deeply sorry and offer our sincere condolences to those people who have been affected by the listeriosis outbreak in SA. One cannot put a price on life.
“Food safety remains Tiger Brands’ highest priority. We will always place consumers’ health and safety above all else. Tiger Brands will continue working with the authorities towards curbing this outbreak and ensuring that the public is kept safe. Listeria is a complex global health challenge, and not enough is known about the bacteria and how it mutates. Current South African food industry standards do not detect the LST6 strain, and we urgently need industry and government to collaborate to revise these standards and ensure that South Africans are kept safe.”
“Tiger Brands has a long heritage in South Africa. We are working hard to ensure that we restore trust through our actions and promise to deal with this honestly and with integrity, and we will continue to assume a leading role in resolving it.”