An application for a class action lawsuit against South Africa’s biggest consumer food producer, Tiger Brands has been filed at the South Gauteng High Court on Thursday over the listeriosis outbreak which claimed the lives of 180 people.
The class action lawsuit was filed by Richard Spoor Attorneys in conjunction with Bill Marler from Marler Clark attorneys in the US, on behalf of the people who were infected by listeriosis and the families of those who died.
Richard Spoor is not new in the business of filing class action lawsuits as he has masterminded a massive class action on behalf of gold miners with silicosis. The Tiger Brand case would not be strange to him. “This looks to us to be an overwhelmingly strong case, it’s like a fingerprint or the marks on a bullet fired from a gun,” Richard Spoor reportedly said.
According to a South African newspaper-Mail and Guardian, Richard Spoor Attorneys will use 10 applicants as representatives for the affected families who lost loved ones or people who survived listeriosis but may have been permanently injured. Families who have been affected by the outbreak want Tiger Brands to be liable for the deaths and injuries caused and to also be compensated.
Earlier in March, the Health Minister, Aaron Motosaledi announced that a deadly bacterium outbreak, Listeria has been traced to Tiger Brands’ meat factories which was linked to its cold meat products known as Polony. The Health Minister also announced the recall of all Polony products made by Tiger Brand factories.
Tiger Brands also has since, closed its Germiston, Pretoria and Polokwane sites and plans to wind down operations at its Clayville abattoir, in Gauteng by the end of March.
Since the outbreak, the $2.5 billion South African food business has lost $33.7million due to the recall and could end up losing $67.5 million which excludes costs from lawsuits.
What you need to know about Listeria outbreak in South Africa
Listeria is a bacterium that is naturally found in the environment. It commonly occurs in soil, water, vegetation and in the faeces of some animals.
It can contaminate a wide variety of food types which includes meat and meat products, dairy products (unpasteurized and pasteurized), fresh and frozen produce (fruits, vegetables, and sprouts) and ready-to-eat products.
Uncooked processed meat has frequently been linked to listeria outbreaks around the world. It thrives in fridges and is killed by cooking.
According to the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), the current Listeriosis outbreak is the largest ever in South Africa. About 180 people have died and over 900 people have received medical care after being infected.
It takes up to 30 days before the symptoms of Listeriosis can manifest. The symptoms include Muscle aches, Fever, runny tummy.
People that are prone to the infection include people with impaired immune systems, the elderly, pregnant women, and infants.
Shops that sell polony and other processed meat products have been asked to clean their fridges with diluted bleach.