Shop looting amid fake food frenzy condemned

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Attacks on and looting of shops as a response to the sale of suspicious foods has been condemned by Cabinet.

“Such criminal acts will not be tolerated and law-enforcement agencies will not hesitate to arrest and prosecute persons found inciting or carrying out these criminal acts,” said Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane on behalf of Cabinet at a post Cabinet briefing on Thursday.

Cabinet’s remarks come amid a wave of attacks on shops who are accused by communities to be selling fake and expired food.

A week ago, the Department of Health said it received a high volume of complaints and noted concerns about unauthenticated food-related videos circulating on social media.

Following the complaints, Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi issued a notice to municipalities to conduct inspections at various food outlets.

Since August, inspection blitzes have taken place at various food premises and they continue in different parts of the country.

In addition, the food industry has been requested to confirm the authenticity of potential counterfeit foodstuffs while other government regulatory authorities from the Departments of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and Trade and Industry, including the National Consumer Commission, are involved in confirming public claims of compromised quality standards. 

Cabinet commended the swift action taken by the Health Minister to look into the allegations.

Reiterating the NDoH’s call, Cabinet appealed to members of the public to assist the department by producing tangible evidence of foodstuff made from potentially harmful substances and chemicals.

“Cabinet urges members of the public who are aware of suspicious foods to call the DoH hotline on 011 386 2003/6 and the National Consumer Commission hotline on 012 428 7000,” said Mokonyane.

A further appeal was made by Cabinet to the public, to be vigilant in differentiating terms related to food:

  • The best-before date refers to the long shelf life of dry and canned products, and is not an indicator of safety.
  • The sell-by date is used for perishable food usually stored in a refrigerator and from July this year became no longer relevant, according to global authorities.
  • The use-by or expiry date is the expiry date and means that food bearing this mark is no longer palatable after this date. For perishable food, this means it can no longer be consumed.
  • “Counterfeit goods” are typically goods sold under another company’s brand name while the term “fake food” has been used by social media to refer to food that does not contain food substances.

Listeriosis outbreak declared over

Meanwhile, Cabinet welcomed the declaration that the Listeriosis outbreak is over.

Cabinet noted that the end of the outbreak strongly demonstrates the impact of the emergency collaborative response plan by the Health Department and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, supported by the World Health Organisation.

The department has since put in place a surveillance system to prevent a recurrence.

“All factories that make ready-to-eat processed meat and chicken need to have food safety management systems in place, according to Regulation R607 published on 14 June 2018. Inspections of factories remain ongoing, according to the updated hygiene regulations,” said Mokonyane. –