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Meat firm 'won't go down without a fight'

The family-owned Small goods company at the centre of a deadly listeria outbreak in Adelaide, Australia, is selling stock to stay afloat and is poised to divest // its real estate holdings.

Conroy's Small goods joint managing director Pat Conroy said the company had lost about $10,000 a day since its forced shutdown in mid-December, with total losses expected to reach $2million.

Conroy's - the state's largest small goods manufacturer - was linked to the listeria outbreak. The bacterial strain identified is the same as that found to have infected two patients in the Royal Adelaide Hospital, one of whom died on October 31.

He said they had put money in other commercial areas that they were now selling off to ensure the future of their business. The sell-off gave the company a financial buffer, but declined to speculate how long the company could go on. Conroy said he wouldn’t let a 50-year-old company go down without the best fight they can mount.

The Health Department yesterday ruled out a return to full production in the next few days, despite Conroy's hopes to begin selling products next week.

Conroy's produced 200kg of hot dogs and 200kg of processed meat fritz in a trial run yesterday, but the test results from samples will not be known for five days.

The department's population health director Kevin Buckett said products would not be cleared for sale until the authorities had examined a two-volume report, detailing independent test results and the company's measures to ensure the factory is listeria-free.

"Our priority is public health and safety, and if we have any concerns we will be asking the company more questions and we will keep doing that until we get the answers we need so we can give a clean bill of health," Dr Buckett said.

He said the department would want to know is why it failed and where it failed, and what measures are going to be taken to make sure it won't fail a gain.

Conroy's recalled stock from supermarkets after listeria was found on its factory plant's saw, conveyor, slicer block, floor drains and cryovac machine. It has since removed the conveyor.

Mr Conroy said independent tests on machinery last Friday had been bacteria-free. He had wanted a limited range of the company's 30 products cleared for sale as early as the middle of next week.

Thirty workers - a third of the company's workforce - have returned to work.

A Crown Solicitor's office spokesman said a decision would be made early next year on whether charges would be pressed.


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