SA told to be aware of rise in 'fake' foods trade
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“We might not know how extensive different kinds of counterfeiting are but it is clearly present in both formal and informal sectors of the food system. The general consensus is that it’s increasing,” she said, adding that consumers need to be clear about what is meant by fake food, as different categories were associated with different risks.
Battersby-Lennard said as much as there were many different kinds of counterfeit goods, not all posed a risk to consumers.
She said the "blame" for counterfeit food currently seemed to lie squarely at the feet of "foreigners" - both vendors and the alleged "cartels" supplying them.
“These allegations have serious consequences. Government has initiated blitzes on foreign-owned shops, seized goods and shut down businesses. Some communities have turned to looting shops and inciting xenophobic violence,” she said.
However, she said, counterfeiting exists for many reasons. Among them is the poor enforcement of regulations at local level, the globalisation of supply chains and market dominance, and the barriers to entry for legitimate business.
These, she said, needed to be considered in the debates about ‘fake’ foods.
“We need to be focussing rather on the root causes of fake foods being in the market, and to push the state for more environmental health officers in municipalities, to better understand the health risks associated with fake foods.”
National Consumer Commission (NCC) acting commissioner Thezi Mabuza said such goods were sold in violation of the Consumer Protection Act.
She said they had received no complaints by consumers. “The NCC has only seen pictures on social media, that may not be authentic. The trends show that foodstuffs mainly violate ‘use by’ and ‘sell by’ dates, and in certain instances date markings may have been tampered with,” she said.
Mayoral committee member for community services and health Zahid Badroodien said food safety should be everyone’s concern.
“It is always good to examine the labels and packaging material of products and where the product is visible through the packaging material, to consider if it meets the normal visual criteria associated with the product,” he said.
He said when in doubt, consumers should report to the environmental health practitioners at their respective municipal offices.@Mtuzeli