- Tiger Brands on Monday said it had found the deadly ST6 strain of Listeria bacteria in its products, confirming and going beyond government tests that linked it to the listeriosis outbreak.
- The company shut down another factory, and is shutting down an abattoir.
- But its commitment to what are likely to be large damages claims from families of the dead come with many caveats.
Tiger Brands confirmed government tests that showed the presence of the deadly ST6 strain of Listeria in its Polokwane factory, it announced on Monday morning.
It had also, for the first time, found the ST6 strain "on the outer casing of two samples", rather than just in the factory environment – very strongly suggesting that government accusations of its responsibility for the listeriosis outbreak were accurate.
"Whether this presence of [ST6] 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," Tiger Brands said.
It said it had closed down a third factory, and would shutter an abattoir that supplied all three of the implicated factories.
But Tiger Brands stayed a very long way short of admitting any liability – and added a long list of caveats to what might otherwise have been seen as a commitment to compensating the families of the more than 183 people who have died.
CEO Lawrence Mac Dougall said the company "will take steps to consider and address" claims that may come "in due course" under two conditions: if the claims are “valid”, and if a tangible link" is found between its products and fatalities.
He did not specify what evidence Tiger Brands would accept as a tangible link, nor did he say what would constitute a valid claim.
Mac Dougall also expressed his condolences to those who had lost loved ones – after saying that there was "as yet" no confirmed link between the Listeria at Tiger Brands factories and the loss of life.
"Any loss of life, no matter the circumstance, is tragic," he said.
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