South African retailers have located and removed stocks of tinned fish which could potentially cause botulism in order to comply with a recall announced by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS). The NRCS ordered all formal wholesalers, retailers and informal traders to remove and stop selling a range of 400g Pilchards in Tomato Sauce and 400g Pilchards in Chili Sauce with immediate effect on 26 February.
“This follows the outcome of the investigation which the organisation conducted that revealed a deficiency in the canning process. Some of the cans were compromised during the sauce-filling step on the production line, which could affect the safety of consumers. The problem manifests itself after months of storage which causes the contents of the can to react with the metal of the can,” the NRCS said.
The regulator said the canning deficiency was “due to a defective sauce filler that dispenses the sauce into the can, where microscopic deformations were made inside the can body that was only revealed by the leakage of the can contents quite some time after the canning process”.
The NRCS said West Point Processors had manufactured the affected products in Cape Town last year and they had been distributed nationally.
“The NRCS wishes to implore all consumers to return the products to any shop where they were purchased for a refund,” the NRCS said.
The affected products include: Deep Catch, Mammas, OK Housebrand, Prime Ocean, Spar, Sunny, Shoprite Ritebrand, Cape Point, Checkers Housebrand, U Brand, Saldanha and West Point. The products bear markings starting with ZST29 and ZSC29 on top of the can.
“Food safety is a priority for NRCS and therefore the organisation is engaging all role-players to ensure that the affected products are removed from the market to protect consumers The manufacturer has already started the recall and the NRCS will continue to monitor the process with all the other wholesalers and retailers including the informal market to ensure the process is handled efficiently,” the NRCS said.
Shoprite spokesperson Sarita van Wyk earlier said the retail chain had immediately complied with the recall.
Spar group merchandise executive Mike Prentice said its supermarkets had identified Saldanha products with the affected batch numbers and had removed them from the shelves.
He said the group had received two truckloads of Spar brand products from West Point earlier last year and was in the process of checking whether stores had any in stock.
“The product moves very fast and the chances of us having stock pre-dating October 2019 is exceptionally low. The Spar brand after October 1 will all be safe,” Prentice said.
Woolworths said the supermarket did not sell products produced by the supplier and that it was not impacted by the recall.
“We do stock the Lucky Star Brand Pilchards in Tomato Sauce 400g, however, it is made by another manufacturer,” Woolworths said.
Pick * Pay said: “No Pick * Pay house brand is affected by the product recall. We have removed from sale the affected batches of Saldanha pilchards, which were the only products sold at Pick * Pay involved in the recall. We have asked customers to return any products from affected batches to the store for a full refund.”
Food scientist and member of the South African Association for Food Science and Technology, Professor Lucia Anilech, said botulism was the food poisoning most associated with low-acid canned foods such as fish.
“The illness is caused by the micro-organism Clostridium botulinum. It produces a toxin called botulin, which is what causes the illness called botulism if ingested. In food-borne botulism, symptoms usually begin 18 to 36 hours after eating a contaminated food,” Anilech added.
However, she said symptoms, which included difficulty swallowing or speaking, dry mouth, facial weakness on both sides of the face, blurred or double vision, drooping eyelids, trouble breathing, nausea, vomiting and abdominal cramps and paralysis, could present as early as six hours or as late as 10 days.
“Foodborne botulism is relatively rare but when it strikes it can be severe if treatment is not received early,” she said.
Acting national consumer commissioner Thezi Mabuza said the consumer protection body had not been informed of the recall.
“The Commission is weighing its options as empowered by the Consumer Protection Act. We have an option to conduct our own investigation. We will communicate our decision in due course.”
26 February 2020
The department of basic education has suspended the serving of canned pilchards as part of the national school nutrition menu across the country.
The recall of canned pilchards in tomato sauce in 400g tins sold under the Shoprite, Checkers and OK house brands was announced by manufacturer West Point Processors on Saturday. This was due to a “canning deficiency” that could make them “unfit for consumption”.
The recall was extended to pilchards in chilli sauce as well — sold by retailers countrywide under 12 brands, the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) announced on Monday night.
Following this announcement, the education department “has instructed all provinces to communicate with their respective suppliers to stop supplying these products as part the national school nutrition programme (NSNP) menu with immediate effect,” said spokesperson Elijah Mhlanga in a statement on Wednesday.
He said the canned fish was consumed in all schools offering the nutrition programme – to more than 9.2-million pupils on school days.
Mhlanga said the department had advised provinces to:
- suspend serving pilchards with immediate effect;
- check all pilchards stock against the official list of products that were recalled; and
- replace pilchards with other sources of protein from approved menus in the meantime.
“To date the department is pleased that no challenges have been encountered and provinces will be supported as we continue to monitor the situation,” he said.
Neo Sediti, director of the department’s nutrition programme, said they were working with provinces to ensure that food used in the programme was of good quality and a high nutritional standard.
“To date the department has not yet received any negative reports from provinces. We are at this stage trying to proactively stay ahead of any potential challenges and protect the profile, credibility and integrity of the NSNP,” said Sediti.
“The department of basic education would like to reassure parents, learners and members of the public that we are doing everything in our power to ensure that no learner is compromised,” added Mhlanga.
23 February 2020
If you’ve been buying pilchards in the past week or so, then you may have to return the goods to whichever store you picked them up from. Both Shoprite and Checkers have issued urgent recalls for some variations of the product, after a “canning deficiency” in the Western Cape sparked panic amongst the food industry.
What pilchards have been recalled in South Africa?
The way some of these fishy foods have been sealed is causing a small-scale health risk. Officials have confirmed that the “bloated” cans might make some consumers ill. The mishapen containers may contain more carbon dioxide. There are no fatal consequences from eating these pilchards – but it could make you feel quite ill for a while.
So, what products need to be avoided?
- The 400g pilchards in tomato sauce.
- If these are from Shoprite, Checkers or OK House Brands, you must send them back to the store.
- Saldhana and Cape Point branded 400g tins are also in line for a recall.
- If your tinned items have either ZST2 or ZSC2 written on them near the sell-by date, they need to be returned. This can easily be checked by flipping the can over and reading the bottom.
Is it safe to eat pilchards in South Africa?
Meanwhile, West Point Processors have issued a statement on the matter. The distributors have conceded that some products will be “unfit for consumption”, but reassured South Africans that most tins have been held back.
“There is a small probablity that some of our products have a slight canning defiency which could make the item unfit for consumption. We are working to identify the issue and to ensure that the product meets the high standards our customers are used to. We apologise for this inconvenience.”
“While the bulk of the deficient cans have been isolated in our factory, it remains possible that some consumers could have purchased an affected batch. Products with the aforementioned codes must be returned to stores where they were bought from, in order to get a full refund.”