In recent weeks, videos of alleged ‘fake foods’ being sold by various spaza shops and corner stores across the country have made the rounds on social media. Protests against the sale of these so-called fake foods have even resulted in the deaths of four people and have prompted the Department of Health to launch an investigation into these food products.
‘Fake foods’ constitute foods that have expired, contain odd ingredients such as plastic, or do not have any listed ingredients.
“Due to the high volume of complaints received by the department in the past few days, we take these allegations seriously as a potential for danger to human health,” said Popo Maja, spokesperson for the National Department of Health, to BusinessTech. “We have the responsibility to determine if there is truth to these allegations, and where necessary take urgent action against perpetrators.”
Although the department cannot verify the authenticity of some of the videos circulating on social media, environmental health practitioners are investigating cases in various municipalities across the country.
“The Ministry of Health views these allegations as serious and has instructed provinces and municipalities to investigate all these claims. Municipalities have embarked on special blitzes to inspect foodstuff sold mainly in township outlets. This is a special operation over and above the normal routine monitoring done by health inspectors,” Maja said.
The food products that are alleged to be fake include fake eggs, fake rice and fish, fake mutton, fake beef, fake Albany brown bread, baked beans which are sold in fish tins and various cool drinks.
Maja also added that the food industry has been requested to confirm the authenticity of their food products. This may include verifying the brands of products such as cool drinks and tinned non-perishable goods.
“The department is working in partnership with other government regulatory authorities from Agriculture and Trade and Industry, including the National Consumer Commission, to confirm allegations of compromised quality standards,” he said.
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Minister of Health, Aaron Motsolaedi, however, has warned that the public should not believe everything they see on social media.
“Bring the foodstuff to us. If you buy it, we will reimburse you. We have scientists here waiting in anticipation,” he said.
He also added that his department has not yet received 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,” Motsoaledi said.
The public is encouraged to contact the National Health Department on 0113862003/6 and the National Consumer Commission on 0124287000 during office hours if they have any information on fake food products.