A class action lawsuit was filed on Thursday [March 29] against South Africa’s Tiger Brands, after one of the company’s food factories was linked to a listeria outbreak that has killed 180 people since early 2017, the lawyer running the case said.
Richard Spoor, a human rights advocate who had masterminded a class action on behalf of gold miners with silicosis, filed the lawsuit on behalf of families affected by the listeria outbreak. The case against Tiger Brands was clear, Spoor said.
“Their fingerprints are all over this outbreak,” he told Reuters.
A spokeswoman for Tiger Brands confirmed the company had received the filing, the first lawsuitagainst the company following the outbreak, and was reviewing its contents.
Tiger Brands said this month it had received notice of two class action suits against the firm, with the total claimed against the company estimated at 425 million rand ($36 million).
Tiger Brands’ Chief Financial Officer Noel Doyle said at the time in an interview on Radio 702 that the company had yet to calculate the financial impact of the suits.
The food producer has suspended production at its Polokwane, Germiston, Pretoria and Clayville sites in South Africa, which produce polony, and other cold meats.
Tiger Brands said on Thursday that the Department of Health had provided it with a summary of results that indicated the strain was found in seven of the company’s products.
The company said it was not yet able to verify these results independently but would continue a detailed investigation.
The National Institute for Communicable Diseases, which conducted tests during the outbreak, said in a report on Wednesday that 23 cases had been laboratory-confirmed since the recall, with 10 of those having consumed implicated food products and two having direct contact with the products.
Separately, the World Health Organization said it was ready to provide support for countries that lack well-established surveillance systems or laboratory diagnostic services in place to detect listeria, and “has reached out to 16 African nations.”
Kenya, Zimbabwe and Zambia have banned imports of South African processed meat, dairy products, vegetables and fruit since the listeria outbreak.
Mozambique and Namibia halted imports of processed meat products and Botswana said it was recalling them. Malawi has stepped up screening of South African food imports.
(Reporting by Ed Cropley and Nqobile Dludla; additional reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; editing by Alexander Winning and Dale Hudson)
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