Prominent American food safety attorney Bill Marler went to South Africa as a conference speaker on the country’s listeria outbreak, but he’s returning to the USA in his familiar role as an advocate for the victims.

South African human rights lawyer Richard Spoor says he teamed up with Marler and the food safety law firm of Marler Clark to bring a class action lawsuit against Tiger Brands on behalf of those sickened in the world’s most massive listeria outbreak.  Marler Clark attorneys are not licensed to practice law in South Africa but will serve as food safety consultants in the litigation.

Richard Spoor told South African media that he expects to launch the class action in two to three weeks. Marler Clark will bring its expertise to the Richard Spoor Incorporated Attorneys in South Africa.

Previously Spoor led legal action against gold mine owners on behalf of miners with the fatal lung disease silicosis, requiring the companies to pay $425 million in compensation. Marler Clark has won about $650 million for victims of foodborne illness in the United States.

The listeria outbreak has rocked South Africa, sickening nearly 1000 people and resulting in at least 180 deaths. After months of investigation, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on March 4 said two brands of polony by Tiger Brands Enterprise Foods and Rainbow chicken were likely source of the listeriosis.

Tiger Brands CEO Lawrence MacDougall has made a point of saying there is no link between his company’s products and any of the deaths. Its production facilities in Germiston and Polokwane remained closed, and the company has participated in the processed meat recall as suggested by the government.

And, on March 9, the government provided Tiger Brands with documentation of the presence of the outbreak strain, ST6, in the Polokwane plant.

Spoor says National Institute of Communicable Disease research conducted over many months leaves he and Marler “absolutely convinced and satisfied that we have a very strong case against Tiger Brands.” He says the goal of the class action lawsuit is to bring “justice to the victims.”

In addition to his role as managing partner of the Marler Clark law firm, Bill Marler is also the founder and publisher of Food Safety News.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)