Bring me proof of 'fake food' - Motsoaledi calls on public

Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

Health minister Aaron Motsoaledi has called on the public to bring forward evidence of "fake food" sold in township spaza shops.

Motsoaledi said recent inspections by his departments on a number of business premises last month had found no fake food.

His comments come a week after violence erupted in Soweto with residents accusing foreign spaza shop owners of selling them "fake" and expired food.

The minister said he had heard of allegations of rice made from plastic but no one had come forward with products to be tested.

"We appeal to the public, including the media, to bring to authorities tangible evidence of foodstuff made of non-biological and potentially harmful substances," he said.

Speaking during a briefing on food safety at the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) headquarters in Johannesburg on Monday, he said: "To date, the ministry of health has not received evidence of fake foodstuff made of material such as plastic.

"We have not received any reports or notifications of human illness associated with such 'fake' food products doing rounds on social media."

He said there was also confusion among the public between counterfeit products and fake food.

Residents of White City in Soweto looted foreign-owned shops last week after raising concerns that the traders sold illegal grocery items.
Residents of White City in Soweto looted foreign-owned shops last week after raising concerns that the traders sold illegal grocery items.
Image: Thulani Mbele

He said counterfeit goods were an imitation of the original product, while fake foods have been used on social media to refer to products that contain substances such as plastic.

Motsoaledi said inspections were conducted after the chief directorate of environmental health within his department wrote to 52 municipalities and metropolitan areas requesting them to conduct inspections.

Twelve out of the 52 areas, including the City of Johannesburg, Central Karoo and the City of Ekurhuleni, had submitted reports since operations started on August 8.

"The operation revealed that 281 premises were operating without valid health certificates," Motsoaledi said.

About 100 shops were issued with notices to stop operations, while 2151 foodstuff items were seized.

Images and videos of foodstuffs including cold drinks, tea, bread and liquor were making the rounds on social media with claims that some of the products were making people to fall ill.

"While the authenticity of these videos cannot be verified, we had to act swiftly on allegations of expired foodstuff sold to the public," Motsoaledi said.

He called on municipalities to shut down shops that fail to comply with the laws.

President of the SA Institute of Environmental Health, Selva Mudaly, said there were people sitting at home with qualifications but municipalities did not have the resources to hire more practitioners.