The EFF plans to launch a class court action against companies involved in the spread of listeriosis, said EFF leader Julius Malema. Picture: Getrude Makhafola /ANA

Johannesburg - The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) plans to launch a class court action against companies involved in the spread of the deadly bacteria, listeriosis, EFF leader Julius Malema said on Thursday. 

Malema blamed government and the National Consumer Commission for the "slow pace" in containing the spread of listeriosis. 

"The first step should have been to declare a crisis once the source was identified, taking into consideration that ours is the largest outbreak in history," Malema said. 

"Many retail outlets in rural South Africa still have products that are linked to listeriosis, and in a addition, there is no disposal plan. These products may find their way back into circulation... Enterprise must take full responsibility for the outbreak and compensate those affected and families of those who died."

Malema said EFF lawyers would file papers in courts next week against companies involved in producing products linked to listeriosis outbreak. 

The Enterprise food production facility in Polokwane in Limpopo was identified by the Department of Health as the source of the listeriosis outbreak in South Africa. 

Enterprise brand is owned by packaged food giant Tiger Brands. However this week, Tiger Brands refused to take responsibility for the outbreak of the food-borne bacteria, denying any direct links between the deaths of 180 people and its products.

Tiger Brands chief executive officer (CEO) Laurence MacDoughall admitted that they had detected low levels of listeriosis in February, but said that affected products were quarantined and production of affected products had been halted. 

The bacteria is widely distributed in nature and can be found in soil, water and vegetation. Animal products and fresh produce such as fruits and vegetables can be contaminated from these sources. 

African News Agency/ANA