The national Health Department has announced that it is taking steps to verify claims that “fake” food is being sold at foreign-owned spaza shops in several townships, reports The Times. Ministry spokesman Popo Maja said they had received numerous complaints – saying that if they were true then the food posed a serious danger.
"While the authenticity of these videos cannot be verified‚ some cases are currently being investigated by the environmental health practitioners based in municipalities. We have the responsibility to determine if there is truth to these allegations‚ and where necessary take urgent action against perpetrators‚" said Maja.
He said that‚ so far‚ videos and pictures had claimed that eggs‚ rice‚ fish‚ beef‚ mutton‚ fizzy cold drinks‚ bottled water‚ bread‚ margarine baked beans and syrup were among the fake items. "Municipalities have embarked on special blitzes to inspect foodstuff sold mainly in townships outlets. This is a special operation over and above the normal routine monitoring done by environmental health practitioners (health inspectors)‚" Maja said.
"The food industry has also been requested to confirm the authenticity of the potential counterfeit foodstuffs which include verifying the brands of their products such as soft drinks‚ tinned foodstuffs‚ etc. currently displayed on social media platforms."
The report says the authorities from the agriculture and trade and industry departments‚ including the National Consumer Commission‚ have also since been roped in the investigation. "The public is encouraged to notify environmental health practitioners and the South African Police Service regarding any suspicious foodstuffs and provide evidence where possible‚" Maja said.
According to the report, the Health Ministry said there had‚ at this stage‚ been no reports of illnesses reported which could be linked to the consumption of the alleged fake foods.
"Don’t believe everything you read on social media." The Star reports that this was the strong warning from Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi in reference to allegations that foreign spaza shop owners were selling fake and expired goods. That resulted widespread looting and violence that led to at least four people being killed and others injured.
Motsoaledi said in the report that despite the violence in Soweto last week, his department has not been given any evidence of the existence of these fake foods. “I’ve been told there’s rice made of plastic and bread that doesn’t dissolve in water. I have seen all these pictures but when I ask for evidence, I have not received it. Bring the foodstuff to us. If you buy it, we will reimburse you. We have scientists here waiting in anticipation,” Motsoaledi said.
He said there seems to also be a confusion over expiry dates on foodstuffs. The health minister said the ‘best before date’ on foodstuff was not an expiry date. "People confuse that. It’s used for quality and stock rotation. These are long shelf life foods which are mostly dry and tinned. The ‘use-by date’ is an expiry date. It means when the food is consumed it becomes unpalatable. We strongly believe once the expiry date is passed, people must respect it.”
Motsoaledi said people should be careful about believing everything they read online. "Social media is out of control. Any warning about foodstuffs is false. If I want to say something, I’ll call a press conference," he said.
If you have any information on fake foods, contact the national health department on 0113862003/6 and the National Consumer Commission on 0124287000 during office hours.The Times report The Star report