Tiger Brands finds listeria in its factory

Tiger Brands has confirmed the presence of deadly listeria in one of its factories.

In a statement, the company revealed independent laboratory tests received last Tuesday confirmed that LST6 (listeria monocytogenes ST6 type) was present in a sample of processed meat product from its Enterprise Foods subsidiary manufacturing facility in Polokwane, South Africa. The facility has been shut down.

Earlier this year the South African government, which was criticised for taking too long to identify the cause, linked the listeriosis outbreak, which has killed 193 people, to a sausage known as polony made by Tiger’s Enterprise Foods facility as a ready-to-eat product. 

Tiger Brands is South Africa’s largest food company with operations across Africa including Nigeria, Kenya and Cameroon.

In March, following Tiger Brands’ unsuccessful analysis of a batch of its products in which the ST6 could not be confirmed, samples were delivered to an independent laboratory for further testing. 

The company now faces two class-action lawsuits whose total is estimated at R425m (£24,5m).

Those affected want Tiger Brands and its Enterprise Foods plant to be held responsible for the deaths. 

Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence Mac Dougall said: “We are enormously disappointed by this development. We are making every effort to ascertain how ST6 arrived in a product manufactured in our production facility in Polokwane, despite us adhering strictly to all the prevailing industry standards.”

He added: “The listeriosis outbreak has been a terrible blight on the entire ready-to-eat meat industry. It is imperative for the entire industry come together to agree on appropriate standards with government.”

According to Reuters, 948 cases of listeria poisoning have been reported in South Africa since January 2017, an outbreak described by the United Nations’ health agency as the largest ever recorded.

In March, southern African states including Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi, Botswana and Zambia banned processed meat from South Africa, ordering recalls or interrupting imports. 

“[The ministry] asks that all owners of establishments that commercialise these products start to withdraw from the shelves due to the danger that this constitutes to health,” a statement from Mozambique's Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security said.

Listeria explained

• Listeriosis is a bacterial infection occurring when humans consume food which is contaminated by the bacterium listeria. 

• High-risk foods include unpasteurised milk, soft cheeses made with unpasteurised milk such as camembert and brie, and ready-to-eat deli foods.

• Symptoms include abdominal pain, vomiting, fever and diarrhoea.

• In high-risk individuals such the elderly, children, pregnant women and people affected by HIV/AIDS, the symptoms can cause severe illness, including meningitis or encephalitis. In severe cases, mortality rate can be as high as 20-30%.

• While mild symptoms require no treatment, serious infections are usually treated with antibiotics.

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