SOUTH AFRICA – Tiger Brands, South Africa’s largest food manufacturer, has announced the urgent recall of about 20 million KOO, its rainbow brand, and Hugo’s canned vegetable products manufactured between 1 May 2019 and 5 May 2021 over safety concerns due to potentially defective cans. 

The company’s Groceries division first discovered the defective products in May 2021, prior to the final labelling of the finished product, linking them to a deficient side seam weld that could cause the cans to leak.

They were traced back to three different batches of cans which had been purchased from one of the division’s key packaging suppliers, Gayatri Cans, which is part of the Germiston-based Golden era Group of Companies.

A transport and handling test carried out on 287,040 cans revealed that a wider number of products already released into the market could have been affected after a side seam leak was noticed in two cans.

This prompted the recall after consultations with National Consumer Council (NCC).

“A leak in a can presents a risk of secondary microbial contamination after the canned products are dispatched into the marketplace,

“Where such contamination occurs, it will present a low probability of illness and injury if the contaminated product is consumed,” Tiger Brands said in an announcement.

KOO canned fruit and KOO canned pilchards are not affected as the cans used for their manufacture was acquired from a different supplier.

Financial implication

The cost of recalling will be deep for the food maker, in a year already marked by trading difficulties due to Covid-19.

The recall amounts to 9% of annual production and the final impact is estimated to amount to up to R650 million (USD 43.79).

Tiger Brand’s share price initially dropped 6.40% following the recall announcement. 

The firm has already said it lost around R150-million worth of stock due to looting and vandalism that hit its KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng operations two weeks ago.

Prior recall

The recall comes after the company’s ready-to-eat meat products was linked to the world’s worst listeriosis outbreak of which it was slow to acknowledge.

The listeriosis outbreak began at the start of 2017 and was officially declared over in September 2018 with 1,065 confirmed cases and 218 deaths. 

The claim cost the company over $67.5 million not accounting for the class action lawsuit it faced from affected individuals.

Tiger foods sold its meat business department in 2020 to Country Bird Holdings, the owner of the Supreme Chicken brand.

Defective cans have the potential to be contaminated with Clostridium botulinum, a bacterium which can cause life-threatening illness or death.

Consumers are therefore warned not to use the product even if it does not look or smell spoiled but instead return them to any supermarket or wholesale outlet for a refund.