Posted on: October 13, 2010 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 1

Potential entry of global retailer Walmart into South Africa, raises concerns about impacts on local food producers, and food safety risk.

Food and beverage hygiene and sanitation specialist, Gareth Lloyd-Jones, MD of Ecowize, notes growing international concern regarding safety of imported food. “Distance from producer to consumer, increases the number of stakeholders in supply chains, and multiplies risk of contamination.”

Walmart’s aggressive pricing and global food importing network could force some local growers, producers and handlers out of the market, leaving SA partly reliant on very long foreign supply chains.

Food safety research published in Food Review by Chris Griffiths, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Wales, warns that products of a shelf life of longer than five days, invite bacteria like Listeria.

“Global food supplies could carry global pathogens. It would be unlikely if South Africa was not affected,” says Griffiths.

A relatively small amount of imported produce are sampled and monitored by agencies like the SABS.

The USA Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 76-million illnesses and 5000 deaths in the USA from food poisoning each year. The USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is able to sample  and inspect less than 1% of imports.

Internal audit by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency revealed several deficiencies in Canada’s food import systems, particularly in tracking imports.

Imported foods arrive at multiple points of entry, often from, or via countries with little legislation governing food safety.

SA food standards high

Food safety standards in South Africa are among the most developed and hygienic in the world. Local food producers are required to prove total compliance to legislation, retailer or export requirements, through management systems certified to ISO 22000, often involving a Hazards and Critical Control Points (HACCP) methods, third party audits, and SANS standards, as well as regular inspections from the Department of Agriculture and some inspections by local authorities.

Lloyd-Jones says importers should be subjected to the same set of stringent regulation as local supply chains.

Compliance should be monitored by the importer, or a local food producer managing its own supply chain.  When price and profit is the main driver, it is likely to result in a disregard for food safety, passing risk to consumers.

Should government increase inspection of imported food, taxpayers would indirectly pay for imported food at a premium.

PHOTO; Products of a shelf life of longer than five days, invite bacteria like Listeria. Global products could pass the risk of exposure to global bacteria, to consumers.

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