The National Consumer Commission (Commission) is concerned about recent reports following the research findings of a study group at the University of Stellenbosch with regard to the content of various meat products in South Africa.
From the interviews as well as news reports, it appears that DNA samples drawn seem to indicate the presence of donkey, water buffalo, goat and other undisclosed meat products in certain processed foods which are available to consumers at retail stores in South Africa.
The labelling of these products does not make full disclosure of the aforesaid meat content.
In terms of Section 24 of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA), Consumers have a right to disclosure of information: this disclosure includes product labelling and trade descriptions. It is imperative that whatever is put out for human consumption must comply with the labelling and disclosure requirements as contained in the CPA. The Commission has a responsibility to monitor compliance with the relevant labelling requirements.
In terms of the CPA, each and every person/supplier within the value chain has a responsibility to ensure that when a trade description is applied to goods, they must not knowingly apply a trade description that is likely to mislead the consumer as to any matter implied or express in that trade description. Equally, a retailer may not also alter, deface, cover, remove or obscure a trade description or trade mark applied to any good in a manner calculated to mislead consumers.
It is important that this point is emphasised for the simple reason that retailers must be aware that they equally have a responsibility as the end suppliers of food products to ensure that the labels on the products they supply to consumers are compliant with the labelling requirements as stipulated in the CPA.
Section 29 of the CPA sets out general standards for marketing of goods and services. It stipulates that any party in the supply chain must not market any goods or services in a manner that is reasonably likely to imply a false or misleading representation concerning those goods and services.
Consumers have every right to be informed of the ingredients contained in food products so that they may make informed choices. Failure to do so by any party in the supply chain would constitute a breach of the CPA.
The Minister of Trade and Industry has requested the Commission to conduct an urgent investigation into this matter due to the far and wide ranging implications and impact on the broader consumer public.
Issued by: Department of Trade and Industry