Durban - AN influx of crushed garlic from China has been “dumped” on the South African retail market, with experts cautioning consumers to be wary of cheap products that may contain other ingredients like peanuts.
Chris Pappas, the managing director of Mrs Garlic, said large quantities of cheap, sub-standard crushed garlic from China landed in many major food retailer outlets in South Africa.
“It not only has a weaker taste and a lighter texture, but there have also been traces of peanut in samples taken locally.
“For people with peanut allergies, this poses the risk of being deadly. This product should only contain one ingredient, and that is garlic.”
The crushed garlic is sold for about R35 per kg.
He said a growing number of crushed garlic products included extra preservatives and this provided a flavourless taste. It also contained substances that could lead to allergic reactions and death.
Pappas said it was not uncommon to see labels on crushed garlic products detailing extra preservatives such as potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate.
“What is more alarming is these labels often indicate how they are not suitable for those with wheat, gluten, cow’s milk, egg, soy or peanut allergies, which means these ingredients are in the crushed garlic.”
Pappas said in recent years, both the US and Australia red-flagged batches of crushed garlic products that contained large traces of peanuts.
“In South Africa, the problem of peanut traces in crushed garlic has largely gone unchecked, owing to less rigorous testing standards.
“The tests should be done by the Department of Agriculture.”
Pappas said with poor quality crushed garlic flooding the local market, the importance of testing products to the highest standard was crucial.
With garlic being a norm in traditional Indian curries, Tamlyn Govender, an Ayurvedic doctor, advised that fresh, locally-sourced products were the best option.
“Using whole garlic bought from the market or a supermarket is a safer and healthier option when cooking. You have peace of mind knowing where it came from.”
However, the pre-packed crushed version, she said, could easily be contaminated.
“The garlic goes through the process of being crushed and packaged at a factory. This leaves room for traces of peanuts and other things to get into the final product without one’s knowledge.”
Apart from the potential health concerns, the garlic industry in South Africa has taken a knock.
Corrie Bezuidenhout, the chairperson of the SA Garlic Growers Association, said garlic imports were “the greatest challenge to achieving a sustainable local garlic industry”.
“The dumping of garlic from China, in particular, is a severe problem. A first step for the local industry would be to establish a central marketing channel for locally produced garlic. We need to win the trust of our bigger buyers of garlic, which are the supermarkets.”
A KwaZulu-Natal garlic wholesaler, who declined to be named, said the price of whole garlic was high because it was low season.
“Our locally grown garlic will only be available in November. I am currently buying garlic wholesale, imported from Spain and China, at R50 per kg. It’s re-sold in supermarkets for R60 a kg or more.”
The 32-year-old wholesaler said the high prices forced many consumers to buy the crushed garlic.
“Given the influx of the product in stores, it is sold at a cheaper price. I advise against it and recommend consumers buy the whole garlic and crush it themselves.”
The North Coast resident, who has been in the farming industry for 14 years, said proper testing was needed on crushed garlic to ensure it was safe to consume.
Popo Maja, a spokesperson for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, said they had no reports of people having allergic reactions from eating crushed garlic.