Tag: listeriosis

By Ntokozo Miya for Times Live 

Following an investigation that began in 2017, the Competition Commission of South Africa has fined well-known beef supplier, Karan Beef, R2.7-million for contravening the Competition Act. According to a statement released by the commission on Monday, Karan Beef admitted guilt after being found to have been “dividing markets in the supply of processed beef products.”

Irvin & Johnson (I&J) were found guilty of colluding with Karan Beef. An agreement between the two companies restricted Karan Beef from selling products to “certain customers which were reserved for I&J. I&J is disputing the findings and according to BusinessLIVE will now take the matter to the Competition Tribunal. The commission recommended that I&J be fined an amount equal to 10% of its annual turnover.

Food has been at the centre of a number of scandals in South Africa this year. Here’s three more scandals that turned us off our lunch.

Listeria outbreak
Tiger Brands was hit with a listeriosis outbreak in their Polokwane factory. The World Health Organisation describes listeria as a disease caused by bacteria found in processed meat. Its symptoms include muscle pain, diarrhoea and fever. The condition is treatable but may prove fatal for people with a weak immune system.

By the time Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi declared the end of the outbreak in September, 203 people had died and Tiger Brands still couldn’t confirm the source of the outbreak. “Tiger Brands has done every inspection and nobody has pinpointed how this listeria got in the [factory] this way,” said Motsoaledi.

Just as South Africans were celebrating the return of polony and viennas to their lunch boxes, a study conducted by the University of Pretoria concluded that listeria-contaminated polony was still being sold in rural areas.

Between the health minister’s announcement and the latest study, it appears that processed meat is a pretty much a ‘eat-at-your-own-risk’ affair.

Why did US chickens cross the ocean?
The import of chicken from the US to SA began in March after the two countries agreed on the terms for SA to be included in the African Growth and Opportunity Act. “You will find these products generally at third tier supermarkets, as they are aimed at lower income groups,” said Kevin Lovell, chief executive at the South African Poultry Association.

Lovell went on to say that the imported chickens were defrosted and repackaged left-overs of the US market. The outrage that followed was not only around the quality of the chickens, but also the financial impact on the local poultry industry.

Rainbow Chicken Limited Foods (RCL Foods) took a knock and were forced shed 1,200 employees. Food and Allied Workers Union spokesperson August Mbhele said the job cuts were not just limited to RCL Foods. “Even smaller abattoirs and poultry farmers have indicated that they will be forced to close shop because the cost of running these entities is escalating and they are not recovering these costs because there are cheap imports dumped here from other countries.”

Fake food?
When several videos allegedly showing “fake” food being sold at spaza shops trended online, the department of health launched an investigation. The department received complaints that eggs, baked beans, cold drinks and meat were among the items being produced fraudulently by spaza shop owners. Fake food refers to products that are manufactured privately but illegally labelled as well-known brands.

Despite the public outcry, the minister told journalists at a press conference that after more than 400 shops were inspected, no “fake” food had been found.

The cost of food scandals

  • Tiger Brands reported a R380-million loss due to the listeriosis outbreak
  • Rainbow Chicken reported a R75-million loss due to the listeriosis outbreak, with further recurring losses of R20-million a month
  • Rainbow Chicken had to let 1 200 employees go due to the influx of cheaper American poultry products
  • Karan Beef was fined R2.7-million for contravening the Competition Act
  • Fake food news caused looting and rioting in a number of small shops, with losses due to damage and lost income estimated in the millions

Counting the cost of listeriosis

The 180 recent deaths due to listeriosis infection found in processed meat from its subsidiary, Enterprise Foods, could cost Tiger Brands approximately R425-million in legal claims.

The cost of suspending operations and destroying suspect food would be between R337-million and R377-million, and the company hopes to receive R94-million from insurers.

Tiger Brands has said it now intended closing its Clayville abattoir by the end of March, and had also suspended operations at the Pretoria facility that manufactures its Snax brand. This is in addition to the halting of food production at its Polokwane and Germiston factories, which was announced on 5 March.

In a company press statement released on 19 Marhc, Tiger Brands said:

On Thursday,15 March, Tiger Brands received independent laboratory testing results that confirmed the presence of Listeria monocytogenes in the physical plant environment at the Enterprise Foods Factory in Polokwane. Our independent testing confirmed the findings of the Department of Health for the presence of ST6 strain of Listeria monocytogenes in the environment. In addition, there was a positive detection of Listeria ST6 (LST6) on the outer casing of two samples. Whether this presence of LST6 can be said to have caused any illness or death remains unclear at present and testing in that regard is an ongoing process likely to take time.

The Department of Health did not find the presence of Listeria in their product samples. Tiger Brands closed the Polokwane and Germiston Enterprise factories on 4 March 2018. These factories remain closed while we undertake efforts to understand how LST6 came into our factory. All of the Enterprise ready to eat meat products have been recalled and are no longer available for sale.

Test results from March
Tiger Brands continued extensive testing of our products and production facilities beyond Polokwane and Germiston, and discovered the presence of very low levels of Listeria at the Pretoria meat processing factory. These results have been sent for whole genome sequencing to determine whether ST6 is present or not at the facility. The results will only become available in due course.

Although the level detected was well within the range of government standards for the presence of Listeria, Tiger Brands has taken the precautionary measure of closing the factory and has instituted a product recall of all Snax products manufactured at the Pretoria factory with immediate effect. In addition, we will be sending samples for genome sequencing to establish the specific strain of Listeria.

Given the suspension of operations at the Polokwane, Germiston and Pretoria sites, which are the primary recipients of the production of the Company’s Clayville abattoir, operations at the Clayville abattoir will be wound down with the objective of suspending operations completely at the end of March 2018.

“At Tiger Brands, we promised our stakeholders that we will not compromise on quality, safety and internal controls. These are values and principles that I have actively communicated since being appointed CEO 18 months ago. It is therefore devastating that despite this focus and ensuring that we more than meet legislated industry standards, test results show that Listeria ST6 has been found in the environment at our Polokwane facility. The Department of Health has reported that people have lost their lives as a result of Listeriosis and according to the Minister of Health, 90% of these are as a result of LST6. Although no link has, as yet, been confirmed between the presence of LST6 at our Polokwane plant and the loss of life I deeply regret any loss of life and I want to offer my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones. Any loss of life, no matter the circumstance, is tragic.” says Lawrence Mac Dougall, CEO of Tiger Brands.

“We acknowledge that we are dealing with a national crisis and want to assure the public that in the event that a tangible link is established between our products and listeriosis illnesses or fatalities, Tiger Brands will take steps to consider and address any valid claims which may be made against it in due course.”

“During this period of investigation and discovery we have decided to be extra cautious and to take immediate precautionary action when traces of Listeria are detected where they are not expected. We are investing all our time and energy into not only understanding the cause of the LST6 detection, but also how it could have come into our facility. Local and international experts are helping us put measures in place to prevent this happening again in any of our meat processing facilities. While every effort is being made to get to the bottom of this outbreak it will take time to complete our investigation.”

“Tiger Brands is working with a team comprising some of the world’s leading local and international scientific experts in listeria management. Our Polokwane, Germiston and Pretoria factories are undergoing an extensive deep clean of all the equipment, machinery and some structural upgrades of the facilities with the view of ensuring that our facilities exceed the highest, best practice standards for meat processing facilities. We will continue to work closely with the Capricorn and Ekurhuleni Departments of Health as we progress with these remedial actions.”

“Listeriosis is a complex and global challenge with increasing outbreaks and mortality rate caused by a variety of food sources. Other potential sources of listeria may well exist and hence a country wide response is needed to address the tragic consequences of listeriosis. A sustainable national solution for South Africa will only be achievable through a collaborative multi-sectoral approach involving industry, government, regulators, scientific experts and civil society groupings.”

“A key focus will need to be reviewing and revising the current standards to take into consideration the unique South African context. Tiger Brands would like to be at the forefront and play a leading role in this initiative,” concludes Mac Dougall.



Tiger Brands has asked consumers to remove any Enterprise ready-to-eat meat products from their fridges and place it in a plastic bag – away from other foods.

The reputational damage suffered by Tiger Brands following the outbreak of listeriosis that has claimed 180 lives in South Africa since last year is likely to hurt the diversified food giant’s balance sheet over the short to medium term only, analysts said yesterday.

Ron Kiplin, a portfolio manager at Cratos Wealth, said yesterday it would take Tiger Brands some time to turn operations around after Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi identified its Enterprise Foods factory in Polokwane as the source of the food-borne disease.

“They (Tiger Brands) appear not to have had the right controls in place, and it is an indictment on operational management,” he said, adding that operational management at the factory had to be held accountable, although the buck stopped with top management.

“They need to hold a proper inquiry to be able to tell their customers they have the right controls in place, otherwise the reputational damage will continue for longer,” he said.

Kiplin said the company’s processed foods division was likely to take a knock, but it would not have a major impact on group profits, because Tiger Brands was highly diversified.


Chris Moerdyk, a corporate marketing analyst, said although the immediate damage to the brand was enormous, it was likely that it would recover.

Moerdyk said wealthy people would start moving away from processed meats.

“The bulk of their market is people in the lower economic group,” Moerdyk said. “This group of people buy processed meat because it is cheaper. Polony is almost a staple food for many poor South Africans. They do not have alternatives.”

He said the damage to the brand would be limited to the medium term.

“Not long ago, Ford Kuga cars burnt and killed people. Ford is now back to sales of before that period. People thought that the Ford Kuga would not sell again, but people continue to buy the cars,” said Moerdyk.

Tiger Brands recalled its processed food products and halted production at its factories in Polokwane and Germiston after the report by Motsoaledi.

The move prompted Mozambique, Zambia, Malawi and Botswana to ban cold meat imports from South Africa.

Bomikazi Molapo, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Daff), said the department would not be involved in the disposal of the processed meat products.

“The recall was instituted by the National Consumer Commission, and the suspension by the Department of Health. Therefore, the Daff will not be involved in the disposal of the products,” said Molapo.

By Dineo Faku for IOL

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