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Black Friday: Consumers urged to exercise caution when buying food products

Consumers are encouraged to exercise extra caution on Black Friday

24-11-23 11:31

The Department of Health has urged consumers to exercise extra caution when buying goods, especially food products, during the Black Friday frenzy by prioritising quality and safety over quantity and savings to mitigate buying counterfeit and expired foodstuffs. 

“It is indisputable that Black Friday deals provide consumers with discounts and savings on a variety of goods. Therefore, it is important for consumers to guard against purchasing counterfeit and expired foodstuffs by thoroughly checking food labelling and expiry dates on food items to prevent ongoing sporadic cases of life-threatening food poisoning.” 

The department has reminded consumers to be on the lookout and report any suspicious goods sold by outlets and retailers to environmental health practitioners or food inspectors at their nearest municipal offices or Consumer Goods Council of South Africa. 

“Consumption of expired and counterfeit foods can pose serious health risks, including food poisoning, allergic reactions and long-term health complications.” 

The department said through its food control and environmental health sections, it has been working closely with other stakeholders to raise public awareness about the dangers of consuming counterfeit and expired food products to keep the public safe. 

The country, according to the statement, has 1,712 environmental health practitioners, known as health inspectors, spread across 44 districts and eight metropolitan municipalities, serving 62 million South Africans. This translates to one health inspector for every 36,000 people. 

“This means the efforts to prevent production and selling of counterfeit and expired foodstuffs detrimental to human health cannot be left solely in the hands of food inspectors, but it should be everyone’s business,”  the department said.

People are advised to not buy or consume highly perishable products with damaged packaging or lapsed expiry dates, even if they smell and look good. 

Meanwhile, the department said the South African Police Service (SAPS) is empowered to investigate and is also authorised, under the Foodstuffs Act, as inspectors and has powers to collect food samples for analysis as part of their investigation, especially where there is a case of unnatural death. 

“Members of the public are not allowed, in terms of this legislation, to take the law into their own hands to conduct any food inspection blitz in food outlets, but they should report any outlet to the relevant authorities,” the department explained. 

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Tips to identify possible illicit food products: 

–    Colour would normally differ from the original because incorrect additives were used to manufacture the fake products. 

–    Inconsistency in the texture, smell and colour of the product. 

–    Check if manufacturing and expiry date are not adulterated with or damaged, or not clearly visible. 

–    Check the nutrition label on supplements and food items because in most cases, fake goods contain some discrepancy in listing the ingredients. 

–    Carefully look at the packaging if it is not suspicious because counterfeiters produce close replicas, but mostly cannot perfect it.