Food labelling in South Africa: feedback by Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Department of Health & Department of Trade and Industry

Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

18 February 2014
Chairperson: Mr M Johnson (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries briefed the Portfolio Committee on progress made on strengthening of food control services and labeling in South Africa. The presentation complemented work done by the three Departments (Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Health; Trade and Industry) since March 2013. The Committee was presented with an update on proposed interventions, legislative arrangements,update on brine injection of chicken meat, laboratory services in identifying DNA and pathogen profiling, progress on food labeling from DTI,update on report for National Consumer Commission in relation to food labeling, inspection services in food control and progress made by the Department of Health.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries highlighted the previously proposed interventions action plans and progress report on the actual actions taken which included Cabinet approval to strengthen food safety controls oversight through reconfiguration of a Ministerial Cluster and establishment of Inter-Departmental Food safety Coordinating Committee (IDFSCC).The Director-Generals of the three Departments ordered that a Technical Working Committee(TWC) of the IDFSCC be established to continue the work of the proposed action plan towards the model of a Food safety Agency. The Intervention on the identification of laboratories and institutions responsible for species DNA profiling: DAFF had identified laboratories under Agricultural Research Council (ARC) Biotechnology platform for DNA characterization and species identification in order to identify mixed meat. Intervention to review food inspection system with the three Departments; independent meat inspection proposal at abattoirs had been made which was yet to be finalized for some grey areas on who to be assigned as independent inspectorhad to be ironed out.

Legislative issues around food control addressed brine treatment of Poultry meat were presented on. Draft amendment of the Regulations had been submitted to the World Trade Organization (WTO) for comments from International trading partners. The revised brine treatment levels were brine injection for full carcasses should not be more than 10%, chicken portions should not be more than 15% and the chiller should not be more than 7%.Implementation of brine-injection regulation mandated that producers must regularly perform tests to ensure compliance with the brine levels while verification inspection would be done by Departmental officials to ensure compliance.

The amendment of National Health Act which involved the incorporation of Port health services into the National Department from the provincial departments with effect from 1st of April, 2014.This would ensure easier monitoring and enforcement of imported products including foodstuff. The Committee was told that a Government Gazette on 25th October 2013 was published by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on Consumer Protection Act which specified the categories of goods that required having trade description. Members of the public and other stakeholders were to submit comments to the proposed regulation on the labeling of meat products in South Africa. The notice would come to effect after six months in compliance with the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade.

The Committee Members were concerned about the visibility of the environmental health inspectors on food premises. The role of the inspectors to identify and recall expired goods from shelves on food premises could not be overemphasized as the high rate of mortality of children under age five was alarming which could be linked to food poisoning from stale foods. Deliberations were made on the response of health officials to outbreaks on food poisoning and persecution of the guilty party.

Members also expressed concern over the poor food labeling as some did not include the country of origin of meat. Goods that were not properly labeled were often recalled from the counter. Members expressed concerns over the brine-limit in poultry meat and wondered if it was applicable to imported poultry meat.

The minutes of meeting held on the 30th January, 2014 was considered and adopted.

Meeting report

Opening remarks by the Chairperson

The Chairperson received apologies from Ms M Phaliso (ANC) who was attending a Correctional services meeting and Prof EdithVries, the Director General of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF).He acknowledged the presence of representatives from the National Regulation for Compulsory Specification (NRCS).

The Chairperson said the meeting had its background from the mislabeling of meat products and the extent to which these meat products were contaminated with other meat types. It was established that in a situation of mixed meat like molten sausage with elements of pork in the molten sausage, it could have health consequences and religious consequences especially for Muslims that were forbidden to eat pork.

The Chairperson called on the officials from the DAFF to brief the Committee.

Briefing by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries

Mr Mooketsa Ramasodi, Chief Director: Inspection and Quarantine Services, DAFF, told the Committee that thepresentation stemmed from the last discussion inMarch 2013 when the Department was summoned by Parliament to give accounts on the food control issues in South Africa.The purpose of the meeting was to give the progress report since 2013 on the oversight and management done in terms of food control,interventions in terms of inspection of food products, interventions in laboratory services in terms of food fraud and falsification of information,legislative reviews to balance Government interventions in terms of food safety and food control in South Africa.He highlighted the various interventions and actions taken.

In terms of Cabinet level of approval to strengthen food safety controls via reconfiguration of a Ministerial cluster and establishment of Inter-Departmental Food Safety Coordinating Committee (IDFSCC), Director Generals of the three departments ordered the Technical Working Committee of the IDFSCC be established in order to continue with the work of the proposed action plan towards the model of creating food safety agency.

On identifying laboratories and institutions for DNA and pathogen profiling, DAFF had identified laboratories under Agricultural Research Council (ARC) biotechnology platform for DNA species profiling.

In terms of the review of food inspection systems within the Departments, proposals on independent meat inspectors were to be finalized.

On the amendment of brine-injection regulations of poultry meat,there was now 10% brine injection for full carcasses; 15% for chicken portions; 7% water uptake in the chiller and tests to be performed by producers to ensure compliance which would be inspected by Departmental officials.

The Government Gazette on 25th October 2013 on Consumer Protection Act by the DTI on categories of goods that required having trade descriptions or food labeling was to be effected after six months of notice in order for comments to be submitted by members of public and other stakeholders.

On investigation reports by the National Consumer Commission on meat labeling, the reports had been submitted for approval to the Minister.

Proposed new compulsory specification for processed meat products by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) on meat labeling was to be presented on 7th March, 2014.

On regulatory intervention by the Department of Health, the finalization of the draft regulations relating the labeling and advertising of foodstuff to realign with NRCS on the new Compulsory Specification for processed meat products and incorporation of port health services into National Department from the Provincial departments effective from 1st of April, 2014.

Mr Ramasodi concluded that the technical working group of IDFSCC was expected to present periodical progress reports to the Accounting officers of the three Departments.

Discussion

The Chairperson requested for copies of the Gazette of October 2013 on National Consumer Commission report as the Committee’s research team should need a copy. He requested for the Draft Compulsory Specification as comments had been made and the Committee should have such information accordingly.He asked theofficials from DAFF when some finality of these processes would be seen and he wondered why it had to extend till March 2015.He expressed disbelief on why it took long to finalize and what stopped it from being attended to before June 2014.If there was a dedicated inter-departmental structure looking into the matter,then why was it taking so much time to finalize? He commented on the team work between the Departments as the results were showing and collective legislations weresigns of progress. Clarification was required on the grey areas on finalizing the proposal on independent inspection.

Dr Tembile Songabe, Acting Director General, DAFF, replied that the Department concurred with the industry on many aspects on how to improve meat inspection and how to make it independent. However, the only contention that was yet to be agreed on related to who would qualify to be an assignee, who could be independent and who could offer impartial opinions. Government believed that any role player in the chain would already have conflict of interests. It could be the farmers,abattoir owners,retailers who boughtmeat etc.All these individuals if they were part of the assignees could have conflict of interest. Assignees should be really independent police with no other interest than to ensure that the meat was properly inspected at the abattoirs.The current setup of private companies that employed people to do inspections at the abattoirs some of those companieswere owned by the abattoirs owners or red meat associations and that had compromised their ability to exercise their authority without any intimidation.The industries were of the view that they were the main role players in ensuring that products were safe. They believed there could be a mechanism where the industry role players could be part of the assignees but there should be a management mechanism where the powers could be separated such that the CEO of these independent companies reported to the abattoirs but the person was given power to act independently. This would be debated at length by the Technical Working Committee of veterinary sciences,directors of industry andprovinces.Government believed there would be conflict of interest if role players were made assignees while industry believed this could be managed.

Dr Songabe said the long processes and length of work for instance on DNA profiling andpathogen profiling, entailed that the Department engaged in discussions with ARC for credible research proposals. When the work resumed,meat must be tested over a period of time in order to obtain adequate sample sizes in which they could deduce the results and then conclude that they were representatives of the overall market operation. In this regard when discussion started last year,the process was not in the work plan hence there was no budget for it in the financial year thus the need for privatization of budget.

Mr Andisa Potwana, Director: Consumer and Competition Law &Policy, the dti, replied that the National Consumer Commission report was completed and made available to the Minister towards the end of 2013.Several recommendations were made which the office of the Minister and the task team would put into implementation. It had not been released to the Committee as some processes were to be followed for it to be made available.Some of the issues in the National Consumer Commission report that the task team had already began to implement included:legislative amendments between DTI, DAFF and Department of Health; labeling requirements which fell within the mandate of DTI; standards to avoid cross contamination of products; accreditation of laboratories for enforcement purposes of legislation and regulations; threshold setting for cross contamination to make it prosecutable; disclosure of such possible cross-contamination, enforcement capacity both at laboratory level and across departmental level; and issues of food control agencies.

Ms Unati Speirs, Chief Director: Agro-processing, the dti, replied that the Department would ensure that the report on Draft Compulsory Specification got to the Committee as soon as it was available and would make a presentation on it immediately.

Dr Malose Matlala, Chief Director, Department of Health, said in terms of the time it took to come up with legislation, there was the need to have a scientific justification before a legislation relating to food was made. Hence the need to consult with experts, researchers, academic institutions and the industryand to ensure that in terms of international participation government was able to facilitate trade and ensure the health of consumers. It was important to know that whatever product industry came out with must be based on the principles of equivalence which focused on the treatment of locally produced food stuffs and imported ones. The legislation subjected the two types of food stuff to the principle of equivalence so it did not need to treat imported food stuff differently from the locally produced stuff.

Mr Pieter Truter, Specialist, NRCS, said the South African meat standard was authorized last year after which regulatory process could start where various stakeholders were consulted and work was ongoing on harmonization with industry and other Government organizations which would be finalized by March 2015. He said the list of the processes of these meat products was available and recruitment and training of inspectors had to be doneso as to ensure safety parameters were in place.He added that a great relationship existed between NRCS, Department of Health,DAFF and other stakeholders as they followed up all the time aspreventative and corrective measures were implemented. NRCS worked with highly trained inspectors, as untrained people would not be allowed to inspect. He added that the best time to administer regulations would be March 2015.Cooperation between the Department of Health and DAFF was close for instance in the meat industries, raw materials were approved by DAFFofficialsbefore they were processed.

Ms A Steyn (DA) congratulated DAFF on the lifting of the FMB controls, which would be announced by the Minister on the 19 February 2014 which would have better impact on the masses.She commented on the long process of finalization of regulations as World Trade Organization and trade partners had to give comments. She requested that the Consumer protection report be made available and wondered what mechanism was in place in the mean time while regulation was in process. She asked why research institutions had to release reports directly to the media when it was supposed to be done by the Department .The Department had the capacity to employ people, she requested for a progress report and information on employment.She asked if there was a regulation in place under the current legislation between the Departments that notified another Department on inspection. She asked if the inspectors conducted tests on stale foods.She commented on the high number of deaths amongst children below age five of diarrhea and asked if the causes of death were investigated. She asked for the role of Department in the inspection and prosecution of the guilty parties responsible for food poisoning from stale foods.

Dr Songabe said the lifting of the FMD controls was quite a relief for all stakeholders, Government and industry but the measures to maintain standards would be announced by the Minister.

Ms Speirs agreed that finalization processes were very slow butwith the work of the Committee and quarterly presentation of the Departments beforethe Committee, a lot had been achieved such as the interdepartmental coordination at legislative level and workshops conducted.

 

Ms Speirs said the legality of the investigation involved a process that was tabled in the legislative Act on how to prosecute and the steps to follow. Prosecution could be done via the court or the NPA.However, accountability and response were more important. For instance,the UK spent 20 million Pounds on meat inspection, which they sometimes shared and looked into the industry so South Africa was not unique in what was being done.Other countries were far more advanced than South Africa andas a country, South Africawas moving to a level where food safety was prioritized.

Ms Speirs said there were already legislativeand trade instruments that could be used like tariffs to ensure there was no dumping of meat in terms of how it came through SA borders. There were low tariffs on some species like kangaroo. In the meattrade it was cheaper for importers to bring some species in order to put them on their shelves. Some of these trade instruments were being investigated in order to look at the things coming into South Africa cheaper than they were produced or whether they had been dumped.

Dr Matlala said on enforcement of legislation that municipal health services were committed to food control. The SAOGAL summit made a commitment to improve the functions of municipal health services which included food control and raising finance. The Department had been engaging different provinces in terms of these commitments. There was a Committee called the inter-provincial committee which dealt with municipal health services.

On current testing capacity, Dr Matlala said the Department was committed to improve laboratory services though itdid not have enough capacity in terms of resources and infrastructures.

Mr Murdock Ramathuba, Deputy Director: Environmental Health, Department of Health, agreed that the deaths of children under age fivewas a sensitive issue.The Department of Health did not focus on curative care but also offered preventive care. He said if there was an outbreak of diarrhea with children dying, an outbreak response team andhealth officials were available in every Province and district that worked together to respond to outbreak which included investigation of outbreak responsible for deaths. The Department of Health worked together with NICD, a laboratory unit that investigated samples picked up from the field to know the causative agents responsible for such outbreak. Environmental health practitioners were continually investigating such cases including coming up with recommendations to prevent similar outbreaks. Most cases came from poor environments where even recommendations by health practitioners may not be implementable enough to ensure safety. He advised thatthe Committee as Government Representative should tell members of the public the good story of what the Department had been doing to improve the health of the masses.

Mr Ramathuba said it was important to amend regulations on import when it came to health systemas imports at the ports of entry were full of loopholes. Government had nine provincial legislatures that determined how each Province should run their affairs regardless of what the minister might be advising. Therefore, It was important for Government to amend health services to be centralized  so that whatever was done in the Northern Cape applied to the Eastern Cape which had to do with the National Health Act amendment where talks about services been transferred to National Department of Health which dealt with the issues of capacity at the point of entry. The Director General of the Department of Health had a meeting withTreasury to secure funds for the programme to be properly capacitated including Human resource provision. Hence, prioritizing the issue of import by taking the services back to the National Health Act was important.

Mr Ramathuba said health inspectors in food premises were still active as they were now known as environmental health practitioners. They still conducted inspections as they were in all provinces providing municipal health services in foodpremises. The bigger supplier of food stuffs,apart from the fact that they had their own inspectors that identified unwholesome, contaminated or expired foodstuffs for removal, the environmental health inspectors went there to inspect once in a while. Thefood inspection regulation 3.2.8 of April 2007 specified the power and duties of inspection officers and the procedure for food examination including taking samples to ensure food was good for consumption. The Department of Health had facilitated and ensured that the indicators on environmental health on food control were incorporated into the National health information system. Hence, reports since 1 April 2013 to the 3rd quarter were available when required.

Ms M Pilusa-Mosoane (ANC) said the Committee had a good story to tell as they brought the various Departments together. She expressed happiness that the new Committee would have a lot to discussand that was evidence of a job well done on their part.She referred to brine injection regulation and wondered if it was applicable to imported poultry meat. She asked howbrine level checks were conducted onimported meat. She commented on ARC researches that would take a long time to finalize and asked why it took so long a time to finalize. She wondered why all the processes took so long and required reasons.She referred to the presentation on the  recommendations of the Director Generals of the three Departments  that processes related with Cabinet Memo  be halted to allow considerations by the new Cabinet  ,she said it would take a  longtime to finalize ,but the incoming Committee would see the Committee’s stand on this issue.

Ms N Twala (ANC) congratulated the Departments on the progress made by the interdepartmental work.She expressed concern on percentage of brine injection in Poultry meat, she asked who decided on the percentages and why producers had to be the ones to perform test on the meat types in order to ensure compliance with these limits. She wondered why theyshould be the ones to monitor compliance, and why there were no independent monitoring bodies as producers couldnot be referee and players at the same time. She asked for the role of private sectors in food labeling.

Dr Boitshoko Ntsuabele, Director: Food Safety and Quality Assurance, DAFF, replied that the last time he was before the Committee; he used the example of building a house to explain the complexity of the task at hand and why it took so long to finalize. He explained that about 13 to 14 pieces of legislations were applicable to food in totality. For example meat legislations included,   Animal Disease Act, Meat Safety Act in the abattoirs and FCD Act outside the abattoirs and to butcheries which could be cumbersome. Each time an amendment was done in terms of public participatory process, stakeholders had to be consulted for instance when a notice was published we had to wait for stakeholders’ comments which usually took time.

 

Dr Ntsuabele gave an analogy of a zigzag puzzle which main outcome was the protection of public health.One of the biggest announcements that came out with the lifting of FMD controls situation was that South Africa could export which was only possible in a good system and various food products were exported which indicated that there were systems that required huge improvement to give thegeneral publicbetter protection. Another reason for the lengthy time of finalization could be explained with the brine injection regulation published for World Trade Organization(WTO) notification which was not finalized till trade partners commented,the process started in 2011 which was followed by the commissioning of study because according to WTO laws could not be arbitrarily set there hadto be a science based decision processes.Therefore, study must be commissioned which would give findings for decisions to be made after which risk assessment and risk management decisions could be taken.

 

Dr Ntsuabele confirmed that there was a huge gap around inspection enforcement as the Departmentwas short of inspectors. It required money as budget would have to be expanded to increase inspectors and enforce legislation better.In terms of the notifications for brine injection, there were a subject of a studies commissioned with the Agriculture research council (ARC). MTECH students had been produced which improved the capacity in terms of quality of people employed. There were advises from scientists on what levels of brineshould be set and there were studies about the various practices around in world. So, brine regulations were made from a mixture of what the research findings gave us and bench mark standards internationally. He added that one of the industry players had produced zero-brine products hence it was possible to have zero-brining.

 

Dr Ntsuabele replied that producers themselves had to ensure compliance because the producers had to label in compliance. So if poultry meat were produced for instance they had to limit brine injection to 15% which had to be stated on the label and they had to test and keep record to ensure compliancein manufacturing process.

Dr Ntsuabele replied that independent meat inspection once it came into play would be part of the in-house inspection processes.Independent Meat inspectors would go into brining and ensure enforcement of brining requirements. There were inspectors that went periodically into these plans to conduct inspections. It was expected that once the legislation was in place we could test for imported meat. There existed legislations on whole birds brine injection and its compliance but nonefor portions. Hence the new brine injection regulation was necessary in order to carry out inspections on portions otherwise if we carried out inspection without legislation we would be reported to WTO.

Dr Ntsuabele replied that the responsibility of food safety waswith the producer who producedfood and labeled. In terms of Consumer Protection Act,producers must respond to food labeling issues but it was dependent on a consumer layingcomplaints. The Department could not act in the absence of complaints.

Ms Speirs replied that test was done by other countries to confirm specie contamination, for example, Malaysia had a test for contamination with a devise that detected pork in meat. For us to proceed to that level it would require investment and it was important for industry players to go in that direction. It hadbeen initiated but we need an influx of capital expenditure for example, SABS was in the process of looking at laboratories that would test DNA in animals and plant species. Hence to have this capacity in South Africa, we had to increase capital expenditure in order to purchase machinery and improve the quantity and quality of tests that could be done.

Dr Matlala replied that it was everybody’s responsibility to ensure that the public had safe and nutritious food. The Government would come up with legislations while industry or private sector was consulted to ensure that it was practicable and implementable and ensured compliance by all role players by involving NGOs and research institutions.

The Chairperson asked about the relationship with the local and provincial spheres of Government. In the earlier daysinspectors were seen in retail stores and if food or goods were stale they would be removed as opposed to what we seenow in some retail stores. He said Shoprite sometimes soldstale stuffs and more black people shopped there. Healthinspectors were hardly seen today and asked whether there was any relationship between the local municipalities and some environmental health departments.

Mr Potwana replied that recall of goods, in terms of section 16 of Consumer Protection Act, the law provided that any unsafe, poisonous or hazardous goods be recalled by the Commission or the retailer, importer or producer be forced to remove such from the shelf. From DTI-consumer protection side, there was a law that made the goods recallable. Industries were encouraged to include in their Code of conducts Act if a supplier had expired goods, supplier should be compelled to remove such from his shop.

Ms Steyn expressedconcern about inspection as she was informed that many big retailers employed internal staff for monitoring and evaluation. She asked who was responsible for inspection and at what stage was tasting conducted. She suggested that spot checks be done to see if internal regulation was being done.She asked if inspection was done on regular basis and what happened when stale product was found. She asked why the Country of origin was not stated in the food labeling regulations in order for consumers to compare prices. The President said in the State of the Nations Address that government would start buying local. She asked why Government had to buy locals if the largestcategory of food eaten by the South African people did not fall under thelocals.

Mr Potwana replied that the Consumer Protection Act provided in Section 24.5 for goods prescribed for labeling, it was compulsory that the Country of origin be disclosed on such goods.

Mr Ramasodi commented on the food safety regimes in SA andthe complex agric value chain. He said   the complexity of these value chains in terms of laws and regulations in South Africa in dealing with the agric value chain was touched in the report made in 2013 specifically on the progress that was not made in terms of food safety arena looking at the food safety policies that were currently being put in place,looking at the multiple legislations and agencies, lookingat the coordinating structures that were absent in the past. The progress made looked slow but efforts were made to untangle the complexity like the Technical Working Committee had the terms of reference to be dealt with like feasibility studies, a lot of the past feasibility studies were outdated hence the need for new studies ushered into new environments with new information which could take a lengthy process. Without the studies one would not be able to measure the enormity of the tasks athand.He added that the draft Compulsory Specifications report was in progress and would be made available to the Committee upon completion and a copy of the Consumer Protection Act would be left with the Committee Secretary after the meeting.

Mr Ramasodi summarized that food safety and quality assurance should be a shared responsibility among Government, private sectors, and consumers’ .He added that strategicalignments between Government’s key interventions and outcomes in terms of the policies that ensured food safety had been ensured. The Department was aware of the issues to be dealt with by extending its wings to deal with food safety.NRCS last month came to a Border control Committee meeting to ensure we stopped consignment at the port before they came into our country.

The Chairperson asked about the regularity of local inspection by the environmental health inspectors. He added that a typical category of consumer did not bother about the conditions of food bought on shelves. He asked about the current mechanisms in place to ensure food safety from provinces or Departments before the regulations were finalized in March 2015.He commented that some consumers did not bother about food conditions and expiry dates as they only eat them till they develop stomach bugs.He asked if the Departments were doing their work in terms of inspections of food labeling and asked if budget for the whole process going forward should be consolidated among Departments.

Ms Nyalungu asked if training of inspectors had started, how long it would take, and if women and youth were amongthe trained inspectors.

Ms Steyn expressed concern about the insufficiency of trained inspectors which was responsible for the food labeling scandal as producers were defrauding consumers. She reiterated that consumer fraud be stopped as some producers had replaced expensive meat with cheaper meat and sold to consumers as expensive meat hence defrauded consumers. She added that labeling was important as it helped consumers to understand what they bought and ate. She requested to see the consumer commission report. In the Eastern Cape,with massive municipalities, there was only one environmental health inspector and theydid not taste food anymore. She said she received many complaints from her community about food safety concerns. She suggested that the job descriptions of these environmental health practitioners be specified some should focus on water portability and some on food safety. There should be specialization of job functions. She expressed concerned about outbreak and response teams as reports on persecution for food poisoning were hardly heard. She asked if the Department had a record of people who go to hospitals for food related cases like Salmonella and other infections. She added that inspection services should be the responsibility of the producer while the Departments did spot checks on the producers and their products as no producer would indict himself on labels. She complained that focus was placed on too many regulations rather than leaving the food safety responsibility to the producers.

Ms Speirs replied on food labeling role in terms of Country of origin in section 24.5 which required producers to state the Country of origin hence goods were removed from the shelf if not well labeled.

The Chairperson commented that the lack of visibility of health inspectors in stores wasworrisome and advised that action plans be made on how to improve on health inspection as it involved consumer’s health. He added that the National Department should take a keen interest in health inspection.

Dr Ntsuabele replied that the mechanism for food control in South Africa would be answered by the feasibility study. The feasibility study had two possibilities which included having senior agencies, legislations and enforcement laboratories; Coordination and hybrids of these possibilities .He added that local conditions for South Africa,application of policies and financial muscle would determine the mechanism to be put in place. He added that the  Capacity to conduct inspection by all Departments might be there but there were various capabilities needed  in order to conduct inspection for instance people who werenot  trained to do certain works would have to be trained into our capacity to do the work.All Departments admitted in March 2013 that the capacity to do the work was not enough hence intervention was required from all Departments to get additional capacity to do the work in different fields.Inspections on daily basis were being conducted at local, provincial or national levels. He expressed concernon the current level of consumer activism as consumers wereaware of the issue of food safety and on a daily basis steps were taken by some consumers to ensure that food safety concerns were taken up by Government at different levels.

Mr Potwana replied that ensuring compliance in terms of food labeling remained a challenge as the provision of labeling regulations requirement kept evolving. However, inspectors are continuously trained to interpret the legislation and ensure compliance in terms of production and expiry dates. Food stuffs should not be condemned because of some food products used in producing them.Inspectors are trained on food control compliance.He agreed that the issue of specialization of food control inspectors should be dealt with as a matter of priority and interprovincial officials should be involved in food control training.

Mr Ramathuba replied that haphazard health inspection could affect the health of consumers. The goal of ensuring long and healthy life may not be achieved if inspection was leftunattended .He agreed that the visibility of environmental health inspectors would be looked into.He added that henceforth, the Department would have interprovincial meetings with Provinces and Municipal Health services to look at how best to improve inspection.

Mr Ramathuba added that prosecution of the guilty party on outbreaks was only possible in cases of an intended poisoning. He said the usual food poisoning in outbreak was caused by the presence of microorganisms in food hence persecution may not be possible for that as it could be attributed to personal hygiene in poor environments. However, the Departments would improve efforts to advocate for healthy hygiene promotion.

Ms Speirs replied that criminality of misleading consumers bymislabeling would be tackled. Consumers would be informed of thecontent and possibility of been misled by industry for example the threshold of 10% and 15% of brine –injections in Poultry would assist Consumers to  know the percentage of water in chicken. She added that the set threshold would be useful to persecute a producer.

In addition,beforeresearch institutions embark on projects the Departments engaged them to use information constructively to ensure it was kept simplefor illiterate consumers it could find it difficult to interpret.

 

Mr Matlala replied that the action planswas a joint responsibility between Government, food sellers and producers to inform consumers appropriately. Government would ensure that people were aware of the set standards in terms of food safety.He suggested the collection of food safety information on a Portal to make it accessible to people who have Information communication devices and possible implementation of some elements into school’s curriculum for learning. Also, consumers should be informed of changes in legislation whenever applicable.

Mr Matlala replied that Independent meat inspection was lawful.However,trading partners did not trust the system in terms of producers alone giving assurance on food safety hence the need for a blended system that gave food safety assurance.

There was response on  the keys to intervention which  included that there should be a level of consumer diplomacy in terms of ensuring that the consumer was aware of certain aspects of food safety and  quality assurance and the next level of intervention was the enforcement field. The Departments would package all interventions and current work been done within different Departments.

The Chairperson asked why it was difficult for the Departments to finalize these trainings in a month time as they had a team of people that could partner with Provinces and locals to inspect retail stores in order to ensure food safety. He advised that they targeted small and big retailers as it could be achieved without much lengthy training. He reiterated that inspectors were not visible at retail stores as the consumers need food safety and quality assurance. He said consumers had to make food choices in terms of quality. He commented that Government Departments should act more rather than justmake plans.

 

Ms Steyn wonderedwhy more regulations were being made as the sizes of labels were becoming problematic. She commented that the length of information put on labels was making them illegible as more regulations would make labels to be too tiny to read and important information would be missed.

 

The Chairperson said it was a food for thought for the Departments as feedback on the way forward was expected. He thanked the Departments forthe work in progress and the important information shared. He said Government was at a point where various Departments had to work together to achieve a goal. Hopefully, the new Committee would make the process of finalization earlier than expected.

The Chairperson commented that he was not sure of the plan on election date. He added that the Minister would announce today by 12noon, the decision of the Organization of Importers and Exporters (OIE) that says South Africa and her farmers were free to export. He commended the ANC Government for a job well done as a lot of good work had been done by the President in opening up the market for meat and food export from South Africa.

 

The Chairperson commented that DAFF and its entities would not present as scheduled on the 12thMarch to the Committee due to the planning of Parliament which had a net effect on the Committee’s program. However, the incoming Committee would deal with the annual performance plan of DAFF. He added thatthe Chamber of Milling had invited the Committee to its Conference scheduled for 13th to 14th of March. He said the Committee could make it for the Conference on the 14th but plans would be made in accordance to budget availability.

 

Consideration and Adoption of Minute of Meeting 30th January 2014

The Chairperson tabled the minutes for consideration and adoption.

 

No issues were raised on the minutes.

 

Ms Twala moved for adoption of the minutes. This motion was seconded by Ms Pilusa-Mosoane.

 

Members were requested to go through the re-drafted Programme for adoption at the next meeting.

The chairperson mentioned that the Committee was meant to meet on the 21st February, with the Department of Finance on Disaster Management and Coordinated approach but the Department would be unavailable.The Committee was scheduled to meet again on Tuesday, 25th February.

 

The meeting was adjourned.

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