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Tiger Brands just sold its listeriosis polony factory – but stays on the hook for damages

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Tiger Brands on Thursday (29/10/2020) said it had completed the sale of its value-added meat business, in a deal worth more than R300 million, to Country Bird Holdings, the owner of the Supreme Chicken brand.

That includes processing plants in Germiston, Pretoria – and the Polokwane factory where Enterprise polony is made. That facility was identified as the origin of Listeria bacteria that, in 2017 and 2018, caused one of the deadliest outbreaks of listeriosis ever recorded. With all conditions now met, the disposal is effective as of 1 November, Tiger told its shareholders in a brief statement.

Country Bird agreed to pay R153 million for the processing plants, plus what had been estimated at a little under R160 million for inventory.

Tiger Brands said it had started a strategic review in 2017 that eventually led to the disposal of the value-added arm, though the process was delayed by “the unfortunate events of 2018”.

But the giant consumer-brands company will remain the responsible party for a class-action damages claim relating to the listeriosis outbreak. Responsibility for damages will sit with Tiger Consumer Brands – with a guarantee from the overall Tiger Brands group – under indemnities built into the sale contract, Tiger said in August.

In March the national department of health said it had conclusively traced the listeriosis outbreak to the Enterprise factory in Polokwane in an investigation that had involved the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, three foreign advisors from the World Health Organisation, and government inspectors from two different departments.

DNA fingerprints had matched Listeria monocytogenes from sick people to samples collected at the factory.

Tiger Brands was forced to withdraw affected products from shelves 18 days after it learned of the contamination. 

Country Bird has said it will retain the Enterprise brand for polony, which it considers too iconic to discard.


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