05/03/2018 12:35 SAST | Updated 05/03/2018 13:49 SAST

'What Happened To Tiger Brands Could Have Happened To Any Business'

"Tiger Brands are a responsible producer," says a South African hygiene and sanitation expert.

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What happened to Tiger Brands could have happened to any other business entity.

That's the view held by Gareth Lloyd-Jones, chief commercial officer of hygiene and sanitation company Ecowize.

He was responding after the source of the deadly listeriosis outbreak was narrowed down to Enterprise's Polokwane facility and a rainbow chicken processing plant in Germiston.

This discovery was followed by the health department's recommendation that the public discard or return all ready-to-eat meat products, including polony, viennas, russians, frankfurters and other cold meats not typically re-cooked before consumption.

Lloyd-Jones has called for perspective on the crisis facing Tiger Brands, saying the listeria contamination was not a deliberate action by the company.

Although he agrees that Tiger Brands must face the consequences of the outbreak, Lloyd-Jones believes that it is a responsible producer that has "employed and successfully fed the nation for 100 years".

"This was not done purposely by Tiger Brands" – Gareth Lloyd-Jones.

He asked people to take a step back to consider what it is that led to a system breakdown. "These companies are audited up to six times a year by retailers. There is ample testing and sampling, so why wasn't this picked up?"

He has also questioned government's efficiency in "performing its duties effectively".

"The type of investigations we are seeing now should have been part of a robust routine of surveillance and monitoring," he emphasises. "What's to say it won't happen again – or it has, but no one knows?"

Lloyd-Jones also points out that whole-genome sequencing (WGS) — which helps in the quick detection of pathogens — is a relatively new technology that has not been available to Tiger Brands, and says that in its monitoring for listeria, the company "acted accordingly as [it] should".

"The type of investigations we are seeing now should have been part of a robust routine of surveillance and monitoring process" – Lloyd-Jones.

"As a food safety community, we need to be doing all we can to bring Tiger Brands back online and producing safe food for the nation again," he says.

Lloyd-Jones is hoping for a "mature, well thought-out and managed recovery process" to ensure that South Africans employed by Tiger Brands do not lose jobs, and that a staple food in many South Africans' homes – processed mechanically and chemically reclaimed meat – is safely being produced and back on the market again.