PRETORIA – Giant food company Tiger Brands has temporarily closed the doors of its Pretoria factory after traces of the Listeria bacterium were found at the facility. “Although the level detected was well within the range of government standards for the presence of Listeria, Tiger Brands has taken the precautionary measure of closing the factory and has instituted a product recall of all Snax products manufactured at the Pretoria factory with immediate effect,” said Tiger Brands in a statement on Monday. Samples from this facility have since been sent for genome sequencing to establish the specific strain of Listeria.
On 3 March 2018, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced that the source of the outbreak had been traced to the Enterprise factories, a subsidiary of Tiger Brands. Following this announcement, all processed cold meats from this factory such as polony, sausages and frankfurters were pulled off the shelves of supermarkets by the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) when it instituted an urgent recall of the products. The food-borne disease, Listeriosis which was first identified in June 2017 in South Africa, has claimed 180 lives and to date, 940 Listeriosis cases have been reported in the country. The disease is caused by the bacterium Listeria and is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation. The strain of Listeria, LST6 which the department said was the direct cause of the Listeriosis outbreak was found during the independent tests on the packaging of two samples in the Polokwane and Germiston plants. “Our independent testing confirmed the findings of the Department of Health for the presence of ST6 strain of Listeria monocytogenes in the environment,” said Tiger Brands.
No tangible link of deaths to our product – Tiger Brands But the food corporation has shied away from linking their products to any of the deaths recorded by the Health Department.“The Department of Health has reported that people have lost their lives as a result of Listeriosis and according to the Minister of Health, 90% of these are as a result of LST6. Although no link has, as yet, been confirmed between the presence of LST6 at our Polokwane plant and the loss of life I deeply regret any loss of life and I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones,” said Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence Mac Dougall. Tiger Brands said it remains unclear whether “this presence of LST6 can be said to have caused any illness or death” and testing in that regard is an ongoing process likely to take time. The food company said once a tangible link is determined it would take the necessary steps to address claims. “In the event that a tangible link is established between our products and Listeriosis illnesses or fatalities, Tiger Brands will take steps to consider and address any valid claims which may be made against it in due course.” All of the Enterprise ready to eat meat products have been recalled and are no longer available for sale. “These factories remain closed while we undertake efforts to understand how LST6 came into our factory,” said Tiger Brands. Tiger Brands closed the Polokwane and Germiston Enterprise factories on 4 March 2018.
Efforts underway to find root of Listeria As it stands the three facilities in question are being scrubbed clean to combat the Listeria in these factories. “Our Polokwane, Germiston and Pretoria factories are undergoing an extensive deep clean of all the equipment, machinery and some structural upgrades of the facilities with the view of ensuring that our facilities exceed the highest, best practice standards for meat processing facilities,” said Tiger Brands. The food company said it is investing its time and energy into not only understanding the cause of the LST6 detection, but also how it could have come into its facility.