Listeriosis: Taking on the Tiger in its processed-food backyard

CAPE TOWN — Two formidable private legal outfits have combined forces to launch an offensive against Tiger Brands whose processed food products are being linked to 61 deaths and 557 poisonings. Richard Spoor, a Nelspruit attorney who has won billions of rands for mineworkers and their families who either died or were left with debilitating lung disease via asbestosis or silicosis, has joined forces with Paul O’Sullivan’s Forensics for Justice. The former will be the pivot for a class action while the latter will prefer criminal charges of murder, attempted murder and assault with intent to do grievous bodily harm. Calling on the Tiger Brands board to resign for denying culpability while simultaneously closing down and deep-cleaning the affected facilities, O’Sullivan highlights that the company cites product quality as number nine in the list of risks facing it in their annual report. Methinks the criminal action is calculated more to flush the tiger from the jungle than to actually succeed. Proving causation and dolus directus (direct intent) are prerequisites for a guilty finding, both very high, if not unrealistic hurdles. One wonders why Forensics for Justice didn’t use the Consumer Protection legislation. – Chris Bateman

Forensics for Justice media release: Listeriosis Epidemic

Forensics for Justice recognises that the vast number of the victims, of the listeriosis epidemic is amongst the poorest in our community.

What is particularly shocking is that Tiger Brands in its most recent Annual Report, placed Product Quality as number NINE on the list of risks facing the company, when it should have been be at number ONE. We cannot think of a greater risk to the sustainability of any food company, than that of killing off your customers through recklessness or gross negligence. We are 100% certain that it will rank top of the list in next year’s annual report.

It is inconceivable that if proper quality-control systems were followed, that a listeriosis outbreak on such gigantic proportions would have been possible in the first place. The sheer scale of the epidemic can only mean that there has been a catastrophic break down in standards and procedures which has resulted in the death of far too many people and hundreds more having been poisoned. Such a procedural break down has to be criminal and Forensics for Justice intends to make sure that the relevant executives and directors of Tiger Brands are held accountable.

What we find completely unacceptable is that Tiger Brands are still in denial. On the one hand they close and deep-clean all the affected facilities, on the other hand they deny culpability and say they will meet each civil claim on its own merits, thereby indicating they will make it a long-haul for the litigants.

Forensics for Justice will ensure that the systemic failings that led to the outbreak are properly investigated and the results published. We will also ensure that the executives and directors of Tiger Brands are held fully accountable and for this reason we will be opening a criminal docket in respect of 61 (sixty one) counts of murder, in the alternative culpable homicide and 557 (five hundred and fifty seven) counts of attempted murder in the alternative, assault occasioning actual bodily harm or grievous bodily harm.

Forensic investigator Paul O’Sullivan

The figures of ‘61’ and ‘557’ have been derived from our discussions with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, as directly attributable to Tiger Brands’ ‘Enterprise’ products. We do expect the figures to increase as investigations continue.

At the very least the docket we will open will force the authorities to look not merely for the root-cause of the spread of the disease, but also at the systemic breakdowns at Tiger Brands and elsewhere and whether such breakdowns amount to an offence.

We will be sharing the criminal docket and all information received with well-known attorney Richard Spoor who will be driving the class-action suit against Tiger Brands.

Lawrence MacDougall, CEO, Tiger Brands

Repeated attempts have been made to communicate with Tiger Brands Chief Executive Officer, Lawrence McDougal. It seems he prefers to remain uncontactable over weekends, whilst the victims of his company are trying to come to terms with such life-changing horrors.

We therefore call upon the whole board of Tiger Brands, to do the right thing by shouldering responsibility for these deaths and resign en masse. This will pave the way for the appointment of a new (untainted) board, that will not have the dark shadow of criminal charges hanging over them.

The new board of Tiger Brands will be better placed to assist in meeting the challenges of transparently getting to the bottom of the systematic failures, so that a repeat can be avoided and that other food production companies can learn from the failures.

A physical contact information sheet will be available on the Forensics for Justice website for any person who would like to give us any information that may help in the investigation.

In addition, families of victims of listeriosis may call the contact information in, to our toll-free contact centre, 0800 118 118 managed on our behalf by ‘BE HEARD’ where the information will be taken down and then shared with ourselves and with Richard Spoor.

Additionally, BE HEARD have set up a dedicated e-mail address for us and victims or their families are welcome to use it: [email protected]

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