SOUTH AFRICA – Food manufacturing giant Tiger Brands has temporarily closed its Durban bakery after some of its staff tested positive of Covid-19 virus.

In a statement issued on Wednesday April 15 ‚ the company said that it closed the bakery as a precautionary measure and that it had contacted the department of health and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD).

“The company has taken this decision in line with best practice protocols and in the interest of the health and safety of all its employees at the bakery‚ which is its biggest priority‚” it said.

“The company has put in place measures to support all staff while they undergo Covid-19 testing. All protocols and regulatory requirements as mandated by the department of health and the NICD have been followed.”

Twelve employees tested positive for coronavirus and are in self-isolation. The company notes that all of these employees work in the administration building and none of these employees work on the production line or are involved in the delivery of product to customers.

Addressing food safety fears the company stated, “Naturally, we appreciate that this may cause concerns around food safety regarding bread. According to the WHO, NICD and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), there is currently no evidence that food is a likely source or route of transmission of the virus.”

Tiger Brands added that its bread manufacturing process is highly automated – from mixing, to baking, to slicing, to sealing into tamper-proof bags and crating.

As a result of the bakery’s closure, the bread produced in this facility on the time of the discovery of the infection was not dispatched to the market.

Tiger Brands has made arrangements to use its other facilities in the country to ensure that supply of food remains stable.

This development comes days after the packaged goods company made a commitment not to increase the prices of any of its products during the lockdown period despite incurring additional costs of R60million (US$3.22 million) as a result of the incentives and staff transport arrangement.

The company said that while the regulations allowed for price increases to be taken, which were supported by valid input cost increases, such price increases might not enhance profit margins beyond those prevailing for the three-month period up to February 29.