During the listeriosis outbreak, a municipal health inspector was denied access to the Polokwane facility of Tiger Brands’ subsidiary, Consumer Brands – because he didn’t have the right paperwork to take samples.

According to Rapport, this is revealed in the defendants’ plea in the listeriosis class action filed in the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg). Tiger Brands maintains that it took all reasonable steps to prevent listeriosis and that it cannot be held liable for the death of more than 200 people.

The listed company has appointed a heavyweight legal team that includes Wim Trengove SC, Martin Kriegler SC, Kate Hofmeyr and Rashad Ismail. Tiger Brands says when the National Institute for Communicable Diseases first raised the alarm about listeria in September 2017, it didn’t come to its attention.

Only after the Minister of Health declared a crisis in December that year did it start to increase listeria testing at its facilities.

On 31 January 2018, an official of the Capricorn District Municipality tried to inspect the Polokwane facility which is alleged to be a source of the outbreak, but he was sent away.

A few days later, Health Department officials took swabs and Consumer Brands’ own samples showed listeria contamination in two of the three polony water coolers.

Consumer Brands says it treated the water and continued with operations.

On 16 February, Tiger Brands first established a ‘crisis committee’ to ascertain whether any facility in the group was implicated. The recall of products happened on 4 March when the Health Department’s test results from the February swabs were ready.

Full report in Rapport (subscription needed)