Consumers’ Health & Safety

June 9, 2017

Amongst the basic necessities of life, food is the key to survival. Consumers work tirelessly to earn money to put food on the table for their family. The least consumers don’t expect is to be sold items which are unsafe for consumption. Unfortunately, the Council has increasingly come across supermarkets in the country which sell food items that are of concern from public health perspective.

Through market surveillance, the Council on a regular basis has uncovered bad business practices that lead to abuse of consumers’ rights. Market surveillance is so important, not only to protect consumers from unsafe products but also to ensure a level playing field for reputable businesses. This activity is not only confined to mystery shopping but also involves proactive interaction with traders when problems are identified.

During trader visits, the Council staff inspect the manner in which the variety of goods are sold to consumers. In particular, how the products are labelled; does it follow the labeling requirement under Food Safety Act; language used on the labels; pricing; expiry dates; and the cleanliness of the stores.

However, some unscrupulous traders never fail to amaze the Council with their deceitful acts. Time and again the Council has come across some repeat offenders engaging in the sale of expired products or products with improper labelling. Despite the matter being raised with the enforcement body, the Council fails to see signs of improvement in some of the supermarkets.

Recently, the Council’s National Consumer Helpline (NCH) Toll Free number 155 received calls from a number of consumers who were dissatisfied with the condition of items being sold in a prominent supermarket in 8 miles Narere.

Following the calls, the Council visited the supermarket only to discover a basket full of items which had the expiry date tampered with and also infested with maggots and fungus but were put on display for sale. There were cans of condensed milk stacked up and marked on ‘special’, however, the tins were rusted while the print indicating the expiry date was fading upon touching. This clearly indicated that the expiry date on the item was stamped recently.

Further, the Council came across fruit cakes which were past the expiry date as the product was infested with mold and insects. The expiry date which was written with a ‘marker’obviously gave the impression that the product was still good for consumption. The condition of the cake was apparent, yet it was displayed on the shelves marked ‘on special’. Just next to the fruit cake, the Council saw packets of cake mixtures with the boxed packaging ripped only where expiry date are generally found.

This is definitely not the first time that the Council has come across a supermarket which does not care about the health and safety of consumers but is rather concerned with the attitude of the supermarket operators who expect consumers to be vigilant all the time. Why should this be the case? Innumerable times the Council has noted traders tampering with expiry dates to make it look like items are still good for consumption.

The Council has been diligently raising the issues with the Ministry of Health’s Food Unit which is the enforcement agency responsible for food items. However, it is obvious that not enough is being done to curb such acts by traders. When the traders know that the enforcement arm is weak, they will continue to engage in such unlawful tactics.

While the Council sincerely hopes that the enforcement agency will act upon such cases and fine traders who think they can take the consumers for a ride. Alternatively, it calls on consumers to not wait for someone else to take action, but rather boycott such supermarkets in a bid to teach them a lesson. It is time consumers start prioritizing their health and safety and in doing so ensure that they give their hard earned money to supermarkets that operate ethically and they genuinely care for consumers’ health and safety.

In matters where consumers feel that the trader is engaging in unethical practices, they are encouraged to contact the Council via its National Consumer Helpline number 155.

Remember, there is no need to engage in rushed shopping as we all know that haste makes waste!