06/03/2018 12:29 SAST | Updated 06/03/2018 12:29 SAST

Tiger Brands: Fifth Scandal In 11 Years

Hayibo! It seems the conglomerate just can't stay out of hot water...

Siphiwe Sibeko / Reuters

South African packaged goods company Tiger Brands, which has grown over the years to supply all sorts of foods and household products to consumers, has been embroiled in at least five scandals in the past 11 years.

In a briefing on Monday, responding to the latest of these, CEO Lawrence MacDougall acknowledged that the loss of life in the current listeriosis outbreak is "devastating for the company", but refused to take responsibility for the more than 180 people who have succumbed to the disease to date, despite the Minister of Health releasing information that the outbreak had been traced to Tiger Brands' Enterprise Foods plant in Limpopo.

South Africans were shocked by MacDougall's insistence that there was "no clear link" between the listeria contamination found in the Enterprise factory and the listeriosis that has claimed the lives of several of those who ate Enterprise products. But perhaps we shouldn't have been surprised; it's definitely not the first time that Tiger Brands has let us down.

In 2007, the company was fined R99-million by the Competition Commission after being caught fixing the price of bread with a cartel of major national competitors.The commission revealed that the handful of national bread producers had been fixing prices for almost 12 years.

In May 2008, Tiger Brands was again in trouble with the Competition Commission – this time for anti-competitive practices regarding its healthcare subsidiary, Adcock Ingram Critical Care. The result was a R53.5-million fine and eventually, the unbundling of the subsidiary by the parent company.

In 2014, the company had its first huge recall panic. Some of its cooking sauces and rice products were tested and found to contain traces of potentially carcinogenic ingredients . Almost 20,000 of its Tastic Simply Delicious rice and curry sauces were recalled.

In 2016, Tiger Brands defended its practice of immersing live pigs in a pit of carbon dioxide gas to render them unconscious before they're slaughtered. Despite an outcry by the NSPCA and animal rights defenders, the company insists this is a more humane method of stunning before slaughter than a bolt to the animal's skull.

Animal activists, however, point out that carbon dioxide reacts with the water in the pigs' lungs to form carbonic acid, which burns them from the inside. It certainly isn't the gentle slide into unconsciousness delivered by carbon monoxide or chloroform.

So perhaps we shouldn't be too surprised when Tiger Brands "categorically denies" that the listeria it admits is present at its production site is the same listeria causing this deadly epidemic of listeriosis...