South Africa’s court favours Tiger Brands on provision of information over listeriosis battle

SOUTH AFRICA – Tiger Brands, a South African packaged food company has announced that the high court in Johannesburg has upheld its bid to compel third parties to provide critical epidemiological information related to the listeriosis class-action lawsuit.

According to News24, some laboratories had refused to provide information they believed was confidential, relating to the identities of those who submitted samples for testing.

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The court handed down judgment in Tiger Brands’ favour, compelling the third parties to provide the information within a month.

“The effect of the ruling is to provide access to information relevant to the proceedings and enable the parties on both sides of the class action to move matters forward,” Tiger Brands said.

The third parties may apply for leave to appeal against the order.

The listeriosis outbreak in 2018 which caused over 200deaths in South Africa, was traced back to a factory run by Tiger Brands-owned Enterprise Foods, triggering the class action lawsuit.

The Listeriosis outbreak lead to the food processor shutting down its facility which was later re-opened but the incident has negatively impacted its performance.

To this regard, Tiger Brands, has been exploring the sale of its Value-Added Meat Products (VAMP) division which had been earmarked for review prior to that event. The review had concluded that it was “not an ideal fit” within the portfolio.

To avoid further outbreaks of the bacterial disease, South Africa set new regulations published by the Department of Trade and Industry giving guidelines for the processed meat industry as laid out in SANS 885.

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The new compulsory regulations giving clear checks and balances for processed meat manufacturing, specifies the handling, preparation, processing, packaging, refrigeration, freezing, chilling and storage of processed meat products.

They cover all aspects of a manufacturing facility, from its physical structure and equipment, to ingredients used, test methods and the handling, preparing, processing, producing, packaging, marking, labelling and storage of the product.

In addition to that they are intended to enable the inspection of processing plants.

The regulations follow an agreement between the Departments of Trade and Industry (DTI) and Departments of Health (DoH) on the final publication of the Compulsory Specification for Processed Meat Products (VC 9100).

After extensive stakeholder consultation, the regulation was gazetted on 8 August 2019, to come into effect two months from the date of publication.

The new regulations are enforced by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS), an entity reporting to the DTI.

The DTI is working with the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development (DALRRD) to coordinate the enforcement of the new regulations.

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