Listeriosis victims can bring class action lawsuit against Tiger Brands

Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall.
Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall.

Family members of those who died or those who became ill from listeriosis can bring a class action lawsuit against Tiger Brands.

Human rights lawyer Richard Spoor said only a handful of representatives were needed to start a class action lawsuit. Other affected parties could join the class action suit later.

“You don’t necessarily have to wait…. You can get the ball rolling right away.” The Consumer Protection Act also allows for a class action lawsuit. Section 27 director Mark Heywood said they were not considering a civil suit “at this point”.

“We are still studying what is going on.”

Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall explained on Monday how the company’s subsidiary Enterprise was embroiled in a listeriosis outbreak that has left 180 people dead and infected 948.

MacDougall said the government had confirmed that listeriosis monocytogenes strain ST 6 was linked to the outbreak‚ but did not link it to the deaths. He said Enterprise was still conducting its own tests.

“There is no direct link with the deaths to our products that we are aware of at this point. Nothing‚” MacDougall said.

“At this stage‚ we are acting on information we got from the government.”

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi announced on Sunday that the source of the listeria outbreak was the Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane‚ Limpopo. Enterprise’s factory in Germiston was also affected.

The National Consumer Commission (NCC) ordered Enterprise on Sunday to remove three products from store shelves. MacDougall said the company had decided to voluntarily recall all products produced in its facilities in Polokwane and Germiston.

Spoor said a class suit would allow evidence that would otherwise be dismissed.

“Every individual case on its own is probably quite weak‚ but taken together I think you could build a very strong case depending on how much evidence there is and what has been preserved.”

Spoor said it was significant that similar cases were breaking out in various places.

“It suggests very strongly that we are talking about people who are consuming a product that has been distributed from a single source.”

He believed examining individual cases in the bigger picture was vital‚ because customers would not have kept receipts or samples of the food they ate.

Spoor believed Tiger Brands might consider setting up a scheme to pay settlements to families if they ran into legal trouble.

National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NCID) spokesperson Sinenhlanhla Jimoh said there was no update on the tests they were conducting.

Data from the NCID showed infant babies were the hardest hit by listeriosis outbreaks‚ with 41% all cases affecting infants younger than 28 days.

Listeriosis can only be contracted if you have a weakened immune system‚ are elderly or are pregnant‚ with those who are healthy unlikely to contract the disease.

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