Food labelling: 'Use Consumer Protection Act'

A food law specialist says consumers must take action if they’re ill after eating mislabeled products.

The Consumer Commission will launch an independent probe into the SA meat scandal. Picture: EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Consumer Protection Act is an invaluable avenue for shoppers to take action against retailers selling food that is labelled incorrectly, a food law specialist said on Thursday.

The future of food production was discussed at the Red Meat Abattoir Association's conference in Stellenbosch on Thursday.

It's estimated the world will have 2 billion more people by 2050 and methods of increasing food production are critical.

Food law specialist Janush Luterek said consumers could take action if they had fallen ill after eating a product that was labelled incorrectly.

"If the National Consumer Commission investigated the complaint and found there was mislabelling or that consumers were not warned the consumer could claim all his medical expenses or any time off work back."

Earlier this year two university studies found revealed that nearly 60 percent of tested meat products contained traces of unlabelled DNA, including donkey, water buffalo and pork, but this was not declared on the packaging.

The National Consumer Commission said there was no better way than DNA testing to check if meat products have been cross-contaminated.

But some retailers, who have been identified as stocking mislabelled meats, believe the DNA testing done on their products is too sensitive and expensive.

A report in the City Press last month revealed Pick 'n Pay, Shoprite, Food Lover's Market, Woolworths and Spar were named as the retailers that stocked incorrectly labelled meat products.

Meanwhile, agricultural economist, Ernst Janovsky of Absa, said about two-thirds of South Africa's farmers could disappear in the next 40 years.

He said it would become too expensive for farmers to continue producing meat and produce.

Janovsky said smaller farmers would be bought by large corporations, drastically changing the farming industry over the next 40 decades.

"You're going to see farmers who can't sustain their own living costs anymore and that's going to kill them."