The National Consumer Commission (NCC) has called on consumers to exercise caution in the wake of a contamination incident with Paramalat's PureJoy apple juice.
"Consumers should not buy products with damaged packaging or lapsed expiry dates, and should read product labels carefully," NCC spokesperson Trevor Hattingh told Health24 on Monday.
Tainted with caustic soda
Parmalat concluded its investigation into about 60 litres of PureJoy apple juice that was tainted with caustic soda following an unscheduled cleaning step on the processing line.
The dairy producer in February recalled all 200ml PureJoy apple juice that was produced on December 14 and 15 2014 with the "best before" date of December 14 and 15 2015. The majority of the distribution was in the Western Cape.
Hattingh said the commission met with Parmalat to establish the cause of the contamination and to monitor the recall.
"The Commission in terms of Section 60 of the Consumer Protection Act has a statutory obligation to ensure that any product recall by a supplier is effective, and that consumers are protected from harm," Hattingh said.
"As such the Commission assessed the company’s recall strategy to guarantee its adequacy, monitored the implementation of it, and conducted independent sample inspections at several supermarkets within the Western Cape region to ensure that the product was removed from stores," he explained.
Hattingh added that it also discussed measures Parmalat had put in place to prevent the problem from recurring.
Parmalat spokesperson André Mahoney told Health24 the dairy producer communicated with the NCC from the moment they initiated the recall.
Site inspection for NCC
"We have provided them with follow up reports on a regular basis and have invited them to a site inspection," he said.
"Furthermore, we met with senior representatives of the NCC at our offices and shared our analysis of the cause of the problem and the way in which it had been handled."
Although the NCC indicated that some actions could have been improved, Mahoney said the commission was satisfied the overall response was very beneficial to the consumer.
Parmalat has assured the public that its PureJoy juice and all its other products are fit for consumption.
Know the difference
Consumers often misinterpret the dates they see on the products they buy. You can use this as a guide:
The expiry date - this is the date which food products is no longer safe to eat.
Use by and Best by - these dates indicate to the consumer when the product reaches peak freshness.
Sell by - this date is a stocking tool to help retailers and food makers ensure the products in the store still have a long shelf life after being purchased by consumers.
Eating spoiled foods
Health24 resident doctor Heidi van Deventer warned that eating spoiled food can be very dangerous.
She advised anyone who thinks they may have eaten food that has gone off to watch out for the warning symptoms of food poisoning. These include fever, headache, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
She said anyone presenting with these signs should seek urgent medical help.
"Food poisoning is very dangerous in adults but especially in children; they dehydrate extremely quickly and this could be life threatening," cautioned Dr Van Deventer.