Food safety laws in the spotlight

Food safety laws are in the SA news

Recently, food safety laws received some attention again. KFC fast food outlet in South Africa has been plagued by scandals regarding its food hygiene.

In one incident, KFC employees were filmed while washing chicken pieces with a hosepipe on the tarmac outside the store. It transpired that the chicken was meant to be discarded but was accidentally breaded.

food safety
KFC Braamfontein employees wash chicken with what looks like their fire hose.

The pieces were rinsed before being disposed of so that the employees did not get into trouble for wasting the chicken coating and breading old stock.

Thankfully, this chicken was not meant for consumption. In another incident, a cook was filmed while sharpening his knife on the pavement outside the store. The cook took the knife back inside, bacteria and germs in tow, presumably to use for food preparation.

Does South Africa have food safety rules in place?

The Regulations Governing the General Hygiene Requirements for Food Premises, Food Safety, and the Transport of Food (promulgated under the National Health Act) sets out basic standards for how food handlers should be treating food.

Here is an example of the standards through some definitions from the Regulations:

Definitions help set the Food Safety standards

“clean”- means free of any dirt, impurity, objectionable matter or contamination to the extent that state of hygiene is attained, and “keep clean” has a similar meaning.

“contaminate”- means the effect exerted by an external agent on food so that it-

(a) does not meet a standard or requirement determined by any law;
(b) does not meet acceptable food hygiene standards or consumer norms or;
(c) is unfit for human consumption;

and “contamination” has a corresponding meaning.

“food handler”- means a person who in the course of his or her normal routine work on food premises comes into contact with food not intended for his or her personal use.

“food premises”- means a building, structure, stall or other similar structure, and includes a caravan, vehicle, stand or place used for or in connection with the handling of food.

“health hazard”- includes any condition, act or omission that may contaminate or spoil food so that the consumption of such food is likely to be dangerous or detrimental to health.

“person in charge”- with regard to any food premises, means a natural person who is responsible for the food premises and/or the owner of such food premises, as the case may be.

It is already clear from these definitions that these KFC stores were not in compliance with this Regulation.

How do I know if a food premises is hygienic?

Every food premises must have a Certificate of Acceptability. This tells us that the municipality has checked that the food premises meets the requirements for suitability and food safety. Your first warning sign should be if you do not see this certificate- it is supposed to be displayed in a place where all can see it as per Regulation 3(7).
Food should also be able to be handled hygienically on the premises and with the equipment used (Regulation 5(2)). Sharpening of knives on a pavement is therefore definitely a no-no!

The person in charge

It is the duty of a person in charge of the food premises to endure that people working in the food premises are trained in food hygiene. This means that theoretically, you should be able to see proof of this training if you ask for it. The person in charge must also ensure that no condition or act or omission that may contaminate food arises or is performed or permitted on the food premises (Regulation 10).

The food handler

It is the duty of the food handler not to perform any act which could contaminate or spoil food. They must also ensure that food is being disposed of correctly. Hosing off chickens by the dumpster is not permitted by these Regulations.

Who must take responsibility?

The Regulations tell us that the person in charge must ensure that the Regulations are being adhered to. Therefore, the franchisee or owner of the store must take the blame for poor food safety. In my opinion, KFC should also be monitoring their brand and ensure that it is not being brought into disrepute. KFC cannot be held responsible because it is an entity and the person in charge must be a natural person who has control over that particular food premises.

We all know what effect improper food handling can have on our health- food poisoning, bacterial infections, parasitic infestations and possibly even death as result of these.

The reality is that not adhering to these Regulations and other legislative requirements governing food hygiene and food safety, is an offense. Customers should be blowing the whistle on non-complying food premises and just making a vow to “never go there again!”.

6 thoughts on “Food safety laws in the spotlight

  1. It is a matter of fact that companies like KFC has better and much stricter regulation than we have in SA. The only solution to avoid this happen again is to fire the person / persons on the spot and replace them with new staff. If you carry on doing it like this employees will start to wake up and change the way the listening during training sessions. Remember that the majority of SA workers are actually not trainable with visible all over. All the H&S files and documentation is not much more than a pain in the neck and money making rip-off business solution. I have read a safety inspection document whereby the builder was stopped doing any work because the stupid worker did not wear the safety helmet even so they have (I know the construction company) training etc.. However the inspector did not see the explosion problem just around the corner as that is again to much work for the person doing the inspection and that part is also falling into an area of a very large company and you do not want to step onto their feet, do we? So for me its a 90% stupid H&S situation is SA. Give you one more tip, working on an scaffolding of 2,5 meter height but the worker is using a fall protection line of 4 meter? The other has a line of 2 meter. If they fall both could be dead. Stupid ? I think so, there is no logic present.

    ==== Editor notes; I agree on the challenges of training, and the idiocy of some legislation. Howver firing workers is seldom a solution. Workers follow an unwritten and unspoken industry and company standard. It takes management to change that, and industrial sector culture activation to sustain that change. First you change the swings, then the merry-go-round.

  2. Regarding the KFC issues, KFC has managed to brainwash most people into believing that the breading was being washed off before “dumping” the pieces. Why wash, when you going to dispose off the pieces, the meat was to be sold. The sharpening of knives on the pavement, well that is debatable IRO food hygiene. If you use a knife sharpener, you will still have bacteria on the knife, I hope these workers sterilise their utensils regularly.
    Nobody has touched on the meat delivered to butchers in urban areas by small delivery vehicles (about 3 ton vehicles without refrigeration). The carcases are lying on the vehicle floor. A lot of the smaller butchers provide a braai facility outside their shop (shisa nyama). There is no washing of the meat, it’s eaten half cooked.
    Just visit the Sydney Rd area in Durban (near Dalton Hostel) and you will witness food hygiene Africa style.

  3. Shavanya – thanks great article, important points raised and deals with Effective Management Systems , having a certifcate ( Certificate of Acceptability – Regulation 3.7)does not always ensure compliance, this is the same for other industries as well.
    KFC are to ensure that the Brand is maintained and requirements met ( would be interesting to see if the owner conducted a TapRoot or similar review following the incident.
    I would stil like a response on the following:
    1) Why did the employees wash the chicken outside?
    2) Why was the knife sharpened on the pavement outside?

  4. Dear madam
    I had an issue last Friday where I purchased a super m milkshake from work canteen/ shop
    And an hour later developed stomach crams and runny tummy
    High temp, not thinking too much I drove home feeling sick
    I went to pharmacy and got over counter meds at home conditions worsened
    Bad nite committing diarea nausea next morning went to hospital
    Dr immediate put me on drip for 1 hour, I informed my Shea team about this as I decified root cause, upon investigation they found out the milkshake in fridge expired in August and what’s my recourse/compensation beside med bills

  5. Dear Kosheek. As you have reported this to your employer, they must pass it on to the COID Commissioner, but I doubt that your illness is an occupational disease under the COIDAct. Secondly, it would be difficult to prove the milkshake was the sole cause for the symptoms, albeit highly probable. Thirdly, the expiry date on the Super M shake is for the purposes of informing the consumer, and reasonably speaking, you should have checked that date as it is a perishable product. This gives both you and the work canteen a portion of blame for the incident. Finally, if you were off duty for less than 3 days, you are not covered by the Compensation Act. This is then a matter between you and your employer.

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