Ending the scourge of food fraud
The countrywide listeriosis scare has prompted the City of Cape Town to set up a dedicated food safety unit to boost confidence in the integrity of the food supply chain.
The City’s plans come as parts of the country had witnessed attacks on some foreign-owned shops in Gauteng after claims that they sold “fake” food products.
The Specialised Food Control Unit, which will be in operation next year, is also aimed at meeting the requirements of rapidly changing global food trade requirements.
“We are living in an ever-changing landscape - the patterns of food production and distribution are changing. And we need to be more vigilant. The countrywide listeria outbreak last year was a devastating reminder of just how important food safety is,” said mayoral committee member for safety and social services JP Smith.
More than 800 food manufactures in Cape Town produce for the local retail market, with some supplying the major export industry.
Currently, monitoring of food manufacturers is done by the City’s environmental health staff.
According to Smith, the new Food Control Unit will focus on the food manufacturers as well as dairy farms.
“It is also an opportunity to improve monitoring of products coming into Cape Town and ensure that these are legally compliant and safe for consumption,” he added.
In South Africa, all food-related legislation is consolidated under the National Foodstuffs Act and Smith said surveillance, monitoring and enforcement were areas where a dedicated food control unit could have a major impact on guiding the industry, while ensuring improved compliance.
However, food samples would be taken from the retail trade and the results might help in instituting legal action where necessary, and would also be shared with the Department of Health.
The Consumer Goods Council of SA (CGCSA) has called for co-ordinated national legislative efforts to deal with fraudulent, counterfeit and expired food products and other manufactured goods being sold in the country.
Particularly worrying is the sale of counterfeit foods and beverages to unsuspecting consumers, which poses a serious health hazard, said Matlou Setati, Food Safety Initiative executive at CGCSA.
Setati said food fraud continued to be a huge challenge, not only in South Africa, but globally.
Food fraud includes actions such as changing date markings including expiry, best before or sell by date once the product has reached its shelf life period in order to extend the sale.
It also includes actions such as the addition of water to milk to increase the volume, addition of sugar to honey, labelling of coffee creamer as milk, sale of expired food products and use of another company’s branding to sell “counterfeit” food.