At the peak of the Listeriosis outbreak 80 tons of recalled polony were being destroyed daily.
Enterprise shut down its Polokwane and Germiston facilities ceasing supply to trade while it explored the source of the outbreak and did a deep cleaning process.
Tiger Brands and RCL Foods share prices tumbled on the JSE, and Alec Abraham, a senior equity analyst at Johannesburg-based Sasfin, said that the weakening of the share prices would likely be sustained.
More than six countries imposed trade bans on products from South Africa, resulting in losses of over R100m in sausage exports alone.
The outbreak has caused around R1 billion in losses to the pork value chain so far due to the changes in consumer perceptions of pork. Half of the pork industries meat is used in processed products, according to the South African Pork Producers’ Organisation.
“The pork industry suffered a severe blow following the recent outbreak of listeriosis,” said Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB Agri-Business.
Tiger Brands’ CEO Lawrence MacDougall said, “We are making every effort to ascertain how ST6 arrived in our production facility in Polokwane, despite us adhering to all the prevailing industry standards.The Listeriosis outbreak has been a terrible blight on the entire ready-to-eat meat industry. It is imperative for the entire industry to come together to agree on an appropriate standard with government. It is not a problem which is unique to South Africa or for that matter Enterprise Foods.”
The Democratic Alliance (DA) blamed Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi for a ‘lack of political will and clarity’ for not getting to the bottom of the Listeriosis outbreak sooner, and that the outbreak pointed to, ‘a broader neglect of proper food safety mechanisms on the part of government.’
DA member of parliament Evelyn Wilson said the record of the world’s largest listeriosis outbreak was ‘not one to be proud of’ and blamed it on a shortage of environmental health inspectors, saying the outbreak could have been avoided if factories were inspected every three months.
In the midst of the crisis and finger-pointing, the Department of Health announced that it would help victims of the Listeria outbreak seek legal restitution, and a class action has been filed by human rights attorney Richard Spoor and Bill Marler of U.S. food safety law firm Marler Clark.
Marler has represented thousands of people in claims against food companies and has harsh words for food and beverage producers.
“If you cannot make mass produced produce safely – don’t sell it. If you put a defective product into commerce and you harm someone, you are responsible. To suggest otherwise, is legally and morally wrong.” – Bill Marler
Estimates are that the listeria outbreak could end up costing Tiger Brand’s in excess of R800m.