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‘No direct link’ between deaths and products, say food producers on listeria outbreak

RCL Foods and Tiger Brands say the listerosis outbreak cannot directly be linked to their facilities.

The announcement made by Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi on Sunday to recall all processed meat products following a listeriosis outbreak has caused South Africans to panic while food producers scramble to provide answers. 

Tiger Brands Chief Executive Officer Lawrence MacDougall said on Monday that the Department of Health (DoH) approached and advised the company about the seriousness of the outbreak at the same time the public was informed, Sunday afternoon.

He said he had no prior knowledge of the extent of the contamination and was told to pull three of his products off the shelves as a result of the listerosis outbreak.

Read: Government blames processed meat firms for delays in listeria probe

After discovering traces of the listeriosis bacteria in polony and other processed meat products, Motsoaledi called for products to be taken off shelves to protect South Africans from the deadly disease. A total of 180 people have died as a result of eating these products.

MacDougall told reporters that Tiger Brands exceeded the DoH request and recalled all of its products, “in the interest and safety of the consumer”, however, he said that Tiger Brands cannot take responsibility for the deaths of the 180 people, until such time that a direct link is confirmed.

MacDougall did confirm that a low level detection of the virus was found in Tiger Brands’ products in February, which then prompted the decision to take “immediate precautionary measures” to reduce spreading of the virus. As a result of the DoH and the Department of Trade and Industry’s instruction, Tiger Brands closed two facilities, one in Polokwane and another in Germiston.

At this point in time, MacDougall said he could not confirm what the financial implications to the group would be, but did say that “the cost of withdrawal (of products) out of all the market is at a high expense”.

In addition, MacDougall said that he does not have a contingency plan to regain consumer confidence, as this is not on his priority list at this moment in time.

The share price of Tiger Brands, a food retailer, manufacturer and producer of a number of food brands, including cold meats, has fallen 7.4%, to R393 a share on Monday, as at 16:51.

RCL Foods, formerly known as Rainbow Chickens, saw its share price see-saw following the announcement. After falling 5% in the day, it recovered to R17.11, 0.5% down at the market close. 

The company was not conducting interviews, but told its shareholders via a Sens statement on Monday that it does not own the facility in Polokwane that the Department of Health is linking the listerosis outbreak to. It added that no link has been made between its Wolwehoek facility and the outbreak.

The DoH called for all polony products to be taken off shelves after detecting the virus in RCL Foods’ Wolwehoek facility.

The company added that while a direct link between the outbreak and its Wolwehoek facility has not been confirmed, it has taken precautionary measures to suspend all of its production of Rainbow Polony brand at the facility and has also recalled all Rainbow Polony products from its entire customer base.

Management advised shareholders in the statement that a senior team is meeting with relevant stakeholders to discuss the impact of the issue.

As a result of the outbreak, a number of retailers and a franchisor, namely Woolworths, Pick n Pay, Shoprite and South African fast-food chain owner Famous Brands, decided to remove all ready-to-eat meat products from shelves and outlets.

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Food producers say “no direct link between deaths and products. Question is, would they be willing to eat their own polony?

With due respect sir, Lawrence MacDougall sir. You shouldn’t appear in the media with that sheepish smile. It shows disrespect for the nation, especially the families of the 180 dead. Have you no decency sir?

It’s probably a stock photo of MacDougall. I doubt that a journalist went round to get a new photo especially for this article. Next time the company is in the news, it will probably have the same photo. I see however that Moneyweb has replaced the original photo of MacDougall with a generic.

Are they stepping back up the food chain?

A lifetime ago doing articles a very large chicken abbatoir was a client.

I did not eat chicken for months and never ate poloni after seeing what leaves the abbatoir to go to the poloni plant. The saleable yield from live clucking kg is 99.99%

Time to short anybody involved, especially one with a CEO quoted saying “he does not have a contingency plan to regain consumer confidence, as this is not on his priority list at this moment in time”

Firstly, those of us in this chat forum are lucky enough not to have to eat Polony. Secondly,these food contamination’s ( whether or not it is this that is causing the outbreak ) happen often and all over the world. They get dealt with, pass and life goes on. Lastly, good time to buy Tiger Brands at a discount….still a well managed company – just caught shortfor a moment…a lesson to be learnt.

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