Eastern Cape MEC for Health Nomakhosazana Meth has called for food safety inspections to be intensified and for action to be taken against shop owners found to be selling expired goods.
The number of learners presenting with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, itchiness, high temperature and shortness of breath, has now increased to 143.
This comes after a further 23 learners from a third school in Mlungisi township in Komani were rushed to Frontier Hospital on Friday morning.
On Thursday, 120 learners were treated in hospital and local clinics.
There has been a spike in suspected food poisoning cases across the country in recent weeks with at least two children reported to have died after eating snacks they had bought at a local shop in Gauteng. Two children died in the Free State last week after eating food apparently bought from foreign owned shops.
Although there have been no reported fatalities in the Eastern Cape as a result of the suspected food poisoning, one learner is recovering in ICU.
MEC Meth called for shop owners selling expired goods to be held accountable.
“The learner is in a stable condition in ICU. An urgent chest X-ray will be done today. We wish her a speedy recovery,” said Meth.
She further said: “We are calling on municipalities working with relevant stakeholders like law enforcement agencies to intensify food safety inspection operations because we cannot afford to have shop owners selling expired goods to our children, which at times includes expired baby formula.”
The MEC said the law must take its course against shop owners selling expired food items.
The Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act 54 of 1972 and the National Health Act of 2003 empower municipalities to conduct food safety inspections blitzes, fine transgressors, close shops that don’t comply with the law and make arrests.
Meth said the department is concerned with the prevalence of suspected food poisoning cases.
She said although tests are yet to confirm the cause of illness of the 143 learners, they all reported buying snacks and food from local hawkers or local shops.
“We welcome the food inspection blitz and raids by Buffalo City Metro and Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality. We are calling on all our municipalities to embark on similar raids on a regular basis and not only when there are cases of suspected food poisoning,” said Meth.
ActionSA President Herman Mashaba said his party believes the national Government, including the Police Department and Health Department, should take responsibility for the incident.
The food poisoning follows a number of incidents in Gauteng and the Free State where people have fallen ill and passed away died, possibly from consuming counterfeit or expired goods.
Mashaba said during his time as executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg, he repeatedly warned about the dangers counterfeit goods -- including foods and medicine -- pose for South Africans across the country and requested urgent intervention by the national Government. At the time, he mentioned how city inspectors warned of a “health catastrophe” unless action was taken
“ActionSA reiterates our belief that drastic actions should be taken, including raiding the factories where these goods are produced as I did as Johannesburg Mayor, and prosecuting these crimes speedily.
“Our activists and councillors have already embarked on inspections of shops to ensure that the goods for sale are not counterfeit and are not expired in a bid to protect consumers,” said Mashaba.