The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) plan to launch a class action case against food giant Tiger Brands for the company’s alleged involvement in the Listeriosis crisis. The Department of Health identified that an Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane, Limpopo, as the source of the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa. Tiger Brands, which owns Enterprise, has denied any direct links between the deaths of 180 people and its products.
At a press briefing on Thursday, EFF leader Julius Malema blamed the government and the National Consumer Commission for what he called the “slow pace” of containing the spread of the bacteria.
“The first step should have been to declare a crisis once the source was identified, taking into consideration that ours is the largest outbreak in history,” Malema said.
“Many retail outlets in rural South Africa still have products that are linked to listeriosis and, in addition, there is no disposal plan. These products may find their way back into circulation,” he said.
“Enterprise must take full responsibility for the outbreak and compensate those affected and the families of those who died.”
Tiger Brands is no stranger to controversy and was previously been taken to the Western Cape high Court, along with Pioneer Foods and Premier Foods for losses relating to non-competitive behaviour by small Bread Distributors. Consumer activist Imraahn Mukkadam and others launched a class action which requested damage compensation against these three companies, who were found guilty of anti-competitive behaviour, including fixing the price of bread, by the Competition Commission back in 2010. The matter was however dismissed in the Western Cape High Court.
Commenting on the EFF’s class action, Mukkadam, said Tiger Brands has once again failed the public as they were aware of the disease in the products before it was identified by the Health Department.
“This is similar to what they had done a few years ago with the price fixing of bread. They are denying their involvement…we are dealing with a really arrogant company. They have become far too big and too powerful to be held accountable. I think that the EFF taking them to court will just lead to a fine, I think they should be criminalized for man slaughter,” said Mukkadam.
Asked if South Africans could ever have trust in Tiger Brands again, Mukaddam said:
“They are the biggest food company in South Africa, yet they have given South Africans the worst service,” he concluded. VOC