The defective seal has in a very low number of cases resulted in a small leak that creates a risk of microbial contamination and what Tiger Brands terms “a low probability of illness and injury if the contaminated product is consumed”.
Seven batches of cans — about 21-million of them — supplied by Golden Era to Tiger Brands between February and April this year, were found to contain about two dozen leaking cans. Only the seventh batch, comprising about a million cans — had gone out into the trade.
In a “stress test” on a batch of about 280,000 cans that were trucked from Gauteng to the Western Cape, just two of those were found to have leaked at the seam.
Tiger Brands then opted to recall all products in cans supplied by Golden Era, going back to the contract inception in May 2019.
As tiny as the risk was, said Tiger Brands CEO Noel Doyle, any risk that its customers could suffer harm was not acceptable to the company.
Very low health risk
Commenting on the recall, Pretoria-based microbiologist prof Lucia Anelich stressed that the risk of someone contracting potentially fatal botulism was very low.
“Commercial canning is very successful in achieving the goal of eliminating Clostridium botulinum which produces the toxin botulin (a neurotoxin) and when ingested causes the disease called botulism,” she said. “Most incidents of foodborne botulism occur from home-made canned or bottled foods. On very rare occasions, however, problems occur during commercial canning just as in any other manufacturing process.
“When a can is damaged even after proper processing, this bacterium could potentially enter the can through pinholes and defective seams, from the external environment and produce the toxin.”