South Africa’s Tiger Brands said on Monday it expected its meat products unit to record a monthly loss of up to R33 million after it suspended operations at four sites over a listeria outbreak that has killed 180 people in 14 months.
Health authorities ordered a recall of processed meat known as polony made by Tiger Brands and RCL Foods two weeks ago in response to the outbreak, the worst ever globally with nearly 950 reported cases.
Tiger Brands, the country’s biggest food maker, said in a statement the potential losses before interest and tax, were estimated at 28-R33 million for March.
In addition, the food producer said it was taking a R337-377 million pre-tax hit due to the costs of a product recall and suspension of production at its Polokwane, Germiston, Pretoria and Clayville sites, which produce polony, and other cold meats.
Tiger Brands also said it has received notice of two class action suits against the firm, with the total amount claimed against estimated at 425 million rand.
A human rights lawyer is planning a class action lawsuit against Tiger Brands on behalf of the families of people who died and those affected by the listeria outbreak.
The company said independent laboratory tests corroborated the health ministry’s findings of the presence of the listeria strain LST6 at its Polokwane facility and 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,” said the company.
Shares in Tiger Brand were down 0.82% to R353.41 at 0825 GMT.