Food Safety Recalls - Are we sweeping it under the carpet?

Aileen Uys
 October 20, 2014
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Food Safety

In the USA , food recalls have hit an all-time high. They currently have six recalls a day affecting 18.4 million products, according to www.foodnavigator.com. In South Africa we probably only have six recalls in a year. Let’s explore why?


Africa’s largest food manufacturing company Tiger Brands has in the last few weeks recalled some of its cooking sauces and rice products after tests found traces of Sudan 1 and Methyl Yellow. These are colourants that have potential toxic and carcinogenic properties. What is significant however is that this is a recurring incident in the South African Food Industry. The problem first surfaced when the Sunday times did an expose in 2005 and found these illegal colourants in spices and chilli. Two years later in 2007 another expose was done and SA food products were still not free from these toxins. Now in 2014 it is still around. Very scary indeed. As an industry, it appears if only superficial rather than root cause problem solving has been done. It appears as if it is a supplier quality assurance problem and not fully having confidence in food safety right through the supply chain to the producer level.


The other food safety incident, but which didn’t result in a recall was the Emma Primary School incident in September 2014 in the Winderveld, North of Gauteng. Tragically, three children died after allegedly eating food provided through a state feeding scheme. The case is still under investigation but it does draw attention to also considering food safety and recalls for the other sectors of the industry outside manufacturing.


The problem in South Africa is that unlike in other countries such as the USA and Europe, food safety is not measured. There is no infrastructure to measure food safety incidences and to pin point sources, so it goes largely undetected. The philosophy appears to be “absence of evidence is evidence of absence”. Recalling of food that is unfit for health is a legal requirement but sadly it is not being policed properly. As with the incident above, it only appears to be the large multinational companies that wish to protect their brand names, that initiate recalls. For the majority of the industry incidents are just covered up.


Food safety incidents and recalls are on the increase and one cannot adopt the “Lets sweep it under the carpet” or It won’t happen to me” approach for much longer. It is both immoral and illegal and will eventually catch up with us.


Entecom has consultation services and training courses to assist you in developing a world class recall and traceability program as well as robust, practical supplier quality assurance programs. Contact  aileen@entecom.co.za   for further assistance.

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