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DA: Statement by Mike Waters, Democratic Alliance shadow minister of health, calling for an investigation into food quality control (22/10/2010)

22nd October 2010

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Reply to DA parliamentary question reveals problems with food quality control
Legislation should be complied with to protect consumers
DA to ask minister of health what steps are being taken to address problem





The high number of food samples that failed safety tests by the Forensic Chemistry Laboratories suggests that there are major problems with quality control over food in South Africa. The DA will be writing to the Minister of Health to ask what steps he is taking to investigate this problem and ensure that South Africans are better protected from harmful products or misleading claims.

There is no point in having legislation in place to protect consumers if that legislation is widely ignored.

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The food division of the Forensic Chemistry Laboratory is responsible for conducting random samples of food being offered for sale to ensure that it complies with the Foodstuff, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act.

In reply to a DA parliamentary question, the minister of health recently revealed an alarmingly high number of these samples failed.

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Overall, 33.6% of food samples taken this year did not comply with the act (compared to 29.3% last year), and a range of other products that South Africans consume every day failed. For specific products, the percentage that failed was as follows:

Chips: 2009-10: 34,8%; 2009-09: 27,1%; 2007-08: 44,5%
Meat: 2009-10: 10,6%; 2009-2009: 16,6%; 2007-08: 11,2%
Drinks: 2009-10: 25,9%; 2009-10: 20,0%; 2007-08: 24,8%
Dairy: 2009-10: 12,5%; 2009-10: 20,0%; 2007-08: 42,9%
Fortified foods: 2009-10: 66,6%; 2009-09: 87,9%; 2007-08: 90,0%

The reasons that the products could have failed vary, from ones that could have serious implications for health (such as a product being contaminated with a toxin or being decayed), to ones that are not necessarily harmful but amount to deception on the part of the seller or manufacturer, such as injecting water into meat to increase the weight, or having a substance removed to decrease the nutritive value (for example removing the live culture from yoghurt).

The figure for fortified foods (66.6%) was particularly alarming, indicating that of the products we buy on the basis of claims that they contain vitamins such as folic acid or vitamin D, two thirds do not in fact contain these ingredients.

Whatever the reasons for the failures, it is clear that a large number of products are being sold to the public on the basis of false claims. The extent of this problem clearly warrants a thorough investigation.

 

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