TAKING ACTION: A supermarket staff member removes all Enterprise processed meat products from its shelves after a customer returned one of them yesterday.
JOHANNESBURG - The South Africa listeria outbreak that has killed 180 people since January is the largest ever recorded globally, the World Health Organization said on Monday.

“Yes, this is the largest ever recorded outbreak of this severe form of listeriosis globally,” Peter K. Ben Embarek, who manages the WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network, told Reuters in an emailed response.

Tiger Brands was on damage control mode as the JSE-listed food giant denied any allegation a link existed between their products and more than 180 deaths induced by the deadly listeria outbreak.

It also announced that it had suspended operations at its Polokwane and Germiston facilities, and that it was withdrawing all products made at these facilities.

Some of the ready-to-eat processed meat products produced by Enterprise Foods, a division of Tiger Brands, which have since been recalled, include polony, russians and viennas.

Tiger Brands chief executive Lawrence MacDougall said the cost of the withdrawal would be at their expense.

He asserted that there was no direct correlation between the more than 180 deaths caused by the unique ST6 listeria strain and their products; and wouldn’t comment on the financial implication of the national recall as they were busy collating the data.

MacDougall crushed any suggestion that the origins of the outbreak could have been caused by poor hygiene standards at their facilities.

 - REUTERS / BUSINESS REPORT