Ekurhuleni Environmental Health Practitioners say residents carry an equal responsibility to adhere to the storage specifications of the food they purchase to avoid foodborne health conditions.
City of Ekurhuleni spokesperson Themba Gadebe said Ekurhuleni Environmental Health Practitioners have taken items off the shelves that pose health hazards, such as meat packages that did not indicate a sell-by date, expired and rotten food, and unlabelled frozen mixed vegetables during the recent spaza shops inspections across the city.
“While it is the shop owner’s responsibility to ensure food products are properly labelled and are off the shelves as per the product specifications, the consumer carries the same responsibility of properly storing the foodstuff under the stated storage conditions.
“This is to ensure the quality of food sold remains fit for human consumption,” said Gadebe.
He said among the important labelling to be observant of is the words “sell-by”.
According to the Regulation relating to labelling and advertising of foodstuffs (Gazette No 32975 – Regulation 146), “sell-by” means the last date of offer for sale to the consumer after which there remains a reasonable storage period at home. This is a date marked on perishable products indicating the recommended time by which they should be sold.
The Regulation further states “best before” is the date which signifies the end of the period under any stated storage conditions during which the product will remain fully marketable and will retain any specific qualities for which tacit or express claims have been made.
“Nevertheless, beyond the date, the food may still be perfectly satisfactory, but to maintain the food quality, the appropriate storage instruction before and after opening should be adhered to,” Gadebe explained.
He added the manufacturer determines the appropriate storage instruction relevant to the nature of the foodstuff, to ensure any specific quality attributes are retained and preserved.
“Nevertheless, the customer may use their own discretion not to or to consume the food based on the change in smell, colouring or shape from its original form. When the “sell by” or “best before” dates have been reached, it does not mean the food is necessarily dangerous, but the risk of microbiological deterioration has started to increase. Under no circumstances should one consume accept food that has a foul smell or is in an unpleasant form.
“It is illegal and a punishable offence to sell unlabelled foods.”
Residents may log their complaints regarding the selling of unsatisfactory food products at the following health and social development offices:
• Boksburg and Vosloorus: 011 999 5407
• Alberton Head Office: 011 999 2970
• Kempton Park: 011 999 6461
• Benoni: 011 999 6431
• Nigel: 011 999 9258
• Edenvale: 011 999 3335
• Alberton and Germiston: 011 999 0347/8 or 011 999 5737 or 011 999 0530
• Katlehong One and Two and Thokoza: 011 999 2347/8 or 011 999 2466