March 29, 2018 / 11:56 AM / 4 months ago

Listeria class action filed against South Africa's Tiger Brands

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A class action lawsuit was filed on Thursday against South Africa’s Tiger Brands, after one of its food factories was linked to a listeria outbreak that has killed 180 people since early 2017, the lawyer running the case said.

FILE PHOTO: A couple leaves Tiger Brands factory shop in Germiston, Johannesburg, South Africa, March 5, 2018. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

Richard Spoor, a human rights advocate who previously masterminded a massive 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 lawsuit against 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 amount 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 total 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.

Separately, the World Health Organization said in a statement that it was ready to provide support in cases where countries do not have well-established surveillance systems and 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; Editing by Alexander Winning and Susan Fenton

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