Expired foods: Eastern Cape Health MEC calls for intensified inspections after 120 learners were treated at healthcare facilities

Eastern Cape Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth. Picture: Independent Newspapers

Eastern Cape Health MEC Nomakhosazana Meth. Picture: Independent Newspapers

Published Oct 27, 2023


The Health MEC in the Eastern Cape, Nomakhosazana Meth has called for food safety inspections to be intensified across the province after a number of school learners fell ill on Friday morning.

Meth also called for action to be taken against shop owners found to be selling expired goods.

“The number of learners presenting with abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, itchiness, a high temperature, and shortness of breath has now increased to 143.

“This comes after a further 23 learners from a third school in Mlungisi township in Komani were rushed to Frontier Hospital this morning.

“Yesterday, 120 learners were treated in hospitals and local clinics,” Meth said.

There has been a spike in suspected food poisoning across South Africa in recent weeks, with reports that at least two children died after consuming snacks purchased from a local shop in Gauteng.

There have been no deaths reported in the Eastern Cape, but one learner is recovering in the ICU due to suspected food poisoning.

“The learner is in a stable condition in the ICU. An urgent chest X-ray will be done today. We wish her a speedy recovery.

“We are calling on municipalities working with relevant stakeholders, like law enforcement agencies, to intensify the food safety inspection operations because we cannot afford to have shop owners selling expired goods to our children, which at times include expired baby formula.

“The law must take its course against shop owners selling expired food items,” she said.

The Foodstuffs, Cosmetics, and Disinfectants Act 54 of 1972 and the National Health Act of 2003 empower municipalities to conduct food safety inspection blitzes, fine transgressors, close shops that don’t comply with the law, and make arrests.

Meth has raised her concerns about the prevalence of suspected food poisoning cases.

She said while tests are yet to confirm the cause of illness of the 143 learners, they are all reported to have purchased snacks and food from local hawkers or local shops.

“We welcome the food inspection blitz and raids by Buffalo City Metro and Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality. We are calling for all our municipalities to embark on similar raids regularly and not only when there are cases of suspected food poisoning,” Meth added.