Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Amendment Bill: briefing

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Health

12 March 2006
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Meeting report

HEALTH PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
13 March 2006
FOODSTUFFS, COSMETICS AND DISINFECTANTS AMENDMENT BILL: INFORMAL BRIEFING

Acting Chairperson:
Ms M Malumise (ANC)

Documents handed out:
Department of Health Presentation on the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Amendments Bill
Briefing Notes on the General Discussion of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Health

SUMMARY
The Department stated that the reasons for the amendments were to bring the Act in line with the new constitutional and organisational dispensation, to include those provisions in the 1977 Health Act that related to food safety and to update outdated provisions. Old definitions were updated and new ones were brought in from the 1977 Health Act.

MINUTES
Briefing by the Department of Health (DOH)
Mr A Pretorius (Director: Food Control Directorate, DOH) said that the purpose of the main Act was to control the sale, manufacture and importation of foodstuffs, cosmetics and disinfectants; and to provide for incidental matters. The reasons for the amendments were to bring the Act in line with the new Constitutional and organisational dispensation, to include those provisions in the 1977 Health Act that related to food safety and to update outdated provisions. Old definitions were updated and new ones were brought in from the 1977 Health Act.

Section 10 was amended to allow the Director-General to also authorise persons that were not subject to his/her control. A further amendment was brought in from the 1977 Health Act to allow local authorities to authorise categories of persons other than environmental health practitioners. The amount that an accused had to deposit if they desired a further analysis was raised from R25 to R500 to factor in the effects of inflation in Section 13.

New regulations were placed in Section 15 and Section 15A was brought in from the 1977 Act to provide regulations for mollusc and fish farming. Section 16, which dealt with the preservation of secrecy, had been omitted as it seriously affected the ability of the authorities in all three spheres of Government to issue food safety warnings. Section 18 was amended to raise the amounts of fines as these were currently ridiculously low. Section 25 was amended to enable the Director-General to delegate certain functions to persons other than officials in the National Department of Health.

Discussion
Mr B Mashile (ANC) asked what reporting requirements there were in terms on Section 25 to ensure that there was protection even where the official was not directly under the control of the Director-General. He suggested that the Department remove the monetary value in Section 13, as it might one day be necessary to change the amount again, necessitating another amendment to the legislation. Such changes were better placed in the Regulations.

Mr Pretorius replied that the reporting procedures had to comply with the Public Finance Management Act so there was adequate protection. He agreed that monetary values should be placed in the Regulations, and would make changes accordingly.

Dr A Luthuli (ANC) asked what the situation was with regard to cosmetics and disinfectants, as the change Mr Pretorius had outlined concerned only food.

Mr Pretorius said that the Act allowed the Minister to regulate cosmetics and disinfectants and the Department was in the process of finalising the Regulations on them.

Ms N Mathibela (ANC) said that even though the fines had been raised, they still seemed very low.

Mr Pretorius said that the Act allowed the Magistrate to consider jail terms or fines, but the extent or amount of both was guided and had to be informed by the Magistrate’s Act and the magistrate’s discretion.

Mr A Madella (ANC) asked if there had been a lot of convictions and how busy the Directorate had been since 1977.

Mr Pretorius pointed out that the Act had been amended slightly in 1982 and South Africa needed a completely new Food Control Act which would have to be done in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and the South African Bureau of Standards. The Department of Health was looking at the entire food control system, so the amendments before the Committee were merely an interim measure. The Act had its flaws, especially in its enforcement. The National Department was responsible for the administration of the Act but the provinces were responsible for its enforcement. There were no statistics available of how many prosecutions there had been as in many cases inspectors wrote out spot fines, removing the need for litigation.

The meeting was adjourned.




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