Durban - A Listeria class action lawsuit was to be filed on Thursday against Tiger Brands Limited and Enterprise Foods in the Johannesburg High Court.
The listeriosis outbreak in the country has been the largest recorded globally.
According to the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), in their report on March 13, there were 978 laboratory-confirmed listeriosis cases. Of the 978 cases, there have been 183 deaths.
The lawsuit, being brought by attorney Richard Spoor in consultation with US food safety law firm, Marler Clark, has ten class representative applicants from Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Free State, Western Cape and the Northern Cape.
The application seeks the certification of the class action which has to be granted by a court before the matter can proceed further.
In the action, the applicants will argue that Tiger Brands and Enterprise Foods are liable for the deaths or injuries caused as a result of products contaminated with Listeria and will seek compensation.
The firms currently represent almost 70 people in the class action and said it would publish adverts so other affected families could come forward.
“For the purpose of this class action, there are four classes: individuals who contracted a Listeria infection but did not die, individuals who contracted the infection in utero but did not die, individuals who were dependent upon other individuals who died as a consequence of their Listeria infection, and individuals responsible for taking care of other individuals who contacted a Listeria infection," the firms said in a statement.
In his affidavit to support the application, Richard Spoor said there had been a dire impact on the ten class representatives as a result of contracting listeriosis, especially for the pregnant mothers, babies and children.
“Some children have paid the ultimate price before even being born. Some who would otherwise have been born healthy, have been stillborn, as a direct result of listeriosis. Those who survived, face a life of serious developmental issues, including blindness, deafness and cognitive disabilities."
Spoor said the young children, who had developed listeriosis after eating contaminated products at crèche would be “haunted” by the experience for the rest of their lives.
In response to questions from The Mercury, Tiger Brands confirmed that it had been served with an application, for an order declaring the constitution of two classes for claims regarding people who became ill or who died as a result of a Listeria contaminated product that had been manufactured by the company.
Asked if the company would be opposing the certification of the class action, Tiger Brands said it was too premature to comment on this as it was seized with managing the recall.