In his own words: Tiger Brands CEO on the defensive in wake of listeriosis outrage
Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall spent more than an hour on Monday explaining how the company’s subsidiary‚ Enterprise‚ was embroiled in a listeriosis outbreak that has left 180 people dead.
He said the company had tightened up its testing protocols‚ had recalled more products than mandated by the department of health‚ shut the two factories fingered in the probe and‚ perhaps most controversially‚ said there was “no link” between the company and the deaths and refused to apologise or take any blame.
Here are the key quotes from the press conference:
1. On the outbreak and the company’s alleged role
“We are dealing with a very‚ very serious issue that pertains to people’s health and the well-being of our population in South Africa. Any loss of life is tragic. We are all concerned about the outbreak of listeriosis in our country and as the CEO of Tiger Brands‚ it is devastating for me to have our products linked to this outbreak.”
2. On whether the company will take any responsibility for the 180 deaths
“We are taking precautions to protect the consumers. There is no direct link with the deaths to our products that we are aware of at this point. Nothing.”
3. On increasing their testing protocols given the outbreak
“Our products have continually tested below the 10 CFUs (colony-forming units of listeria). Therefore not all products that have detection are harmful to consumers. So that is why we acted as we have. Since the department of health‚ the DTI (department of trade and industry) and NCC (National Consumer Commission) have raised the awareness‚ we have taken the precautions to start detecting zero‚ to watch for zero detection for listeriosis in our products.”
4. On whether the facility in Polokwane‚ which was found to be the source of listeria‚ observed good hygiene standards
“All of our results and tests and results indicate that we kept a very high standard of quality protocols within those sites. The expectations going forward is that those standards are significantly increased if there is going to be a zero detection of listeria going forward.”
5. On whether Tiger Brands’ own tests confirmed presence of the fatal surrent ST6 strain of listeria bacteria
“The government did confirm that the ST6 strain was linked to the outbreak. I cannot remember if they had any linkage to the deaths. To be clear‚ we have not found ST6 in our Germiston manufacturing facility. We have not received..our own tests back yet. At this stage‚ we are acting on information we got from the government.”
6. On the financial implications of the recall
“We are busy with financial implications of what it may cost us. We have not got to that detail yet. We don’t have the number yet.”
7. On how Tiger Brands intend to get back consumer trust
“We are not at this stage to even contemplate that. Right now we are thinking about the consumers‚ their health and their safety‚ not the re-establishment of the brand at this point.”
The source of the recent Listeriosis outbreak in the country has been found. Here is what we know so far.