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South African Peanut Butter Suppliers Face Urgent Aflatoxin Testing Mandate

Published February 27, 2024
4 months ago

In a significant move to ensure food safety, the National Consumer Commission (NCC) of South Africa has given all manufacturers of peanut butter products a stark ultimatum: conduct urgent testing for aflatoxin and report the findings within a two-week period. This directive has been triggered by the safety recalls of several peanut butter brands and products containing peanuts, which include some products from major retailers such as Pick n Pay, Eden, Dis-Chem, Woolworths, and Eat Naked.

The demand for action is comprehensive, encompassing not just peanut butter spreads, but also a variety of consumer favorites containing peanuts, from chocolates and cookies to sweets and ice creams. The issue at hand pertains to aflatoxin, a potentially harmful toxin that can grow in foods such as peanuts if they are stored improperly. Exposure to elevated levels of aflatoxin can result in acute health issues, including nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. Chronic exposure poses even greater risks such as liver damage or cancer.

Acting Consumer Commissioner Thezi Mabuza expressed the commission's serious concerns regarding the frequency of product recalls tied to this particular issue. As per the Consumer Protection Act, specifically section 60 (2) (a), all suppliers and manufacturers are mandated to undertake immediate investigations and testing missions.

Mabuza emphasized that apart from adhering to the testing requirement, all entities engaged in the manufacturing, importation, and retail of these products must also adopt immediate corrective strategies wherever their offerings are shown to pose a safety risk. This entails pulling unsafe products off the shelves in line with the NCC's product recall procedures, alerting other pertinent regulators, and effectively communicating the potential endangerment to consumers.

The proactive response from the NCC is indicative of its commitment to consumer health and safety. By exercising these measures, the regulatory body seeks to mitigate the risks associated with high levels of aflatoxin in food products, which have emerged as a grave concern on the continent and elsewhere around the world.

The industry now faces a race against time to comply with the NCC's notice, reflecting a broader emphasis on food safety standards that companies must integrate into their operational protocols. This situation serves as a reminder that robust systems for the assurance of food safety are non-negotiable for consumer trust and health—principles that the NCC is determined to uphold and enforce with rigor.

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