Incorrect labelling and advertising of frozen chicken portion is misleading consumers - Department of Health raises concerns
12 Sep 2012It has come to the attention of the Department of Health that there are products offered for sale to consumers of frozen chicken portions, also referred to as ‘Individually Quick Frozen (IQF)’ chicken portions, of which the contents are described by the processors and/or sellers in such a way that it could mislead consumers.
Due to the apparent reluctance of many of the mentioned processors/sellers of these products to ensure that their products are correctly labelled and advertised on promotional material, such as leaflets distributed by, among others, mainstream retailers, the department considered it necessary to make consumers aware of the current situation in this regard.
Although the incorrect labeling and/or advertising referred to in this statement does not relate to a food safety issue, it is considered important that consumers are made aware of the situation regarding the actual contents of these products and to thus allow them the opportunity to use their discretion when purchasing these products.
The Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, 1972 (Act 54 of 1972), requires processors/sellers of IQF chicken portions to ensure that consumers are not misled and/or false statements made regarding, among others, the composition of the products they purchase. In addition, the Regulations relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs, No. R.146 of 1 March 2010, which came into effect on 1 March 2012, requires the following in this regard:
- In the identification of a pre-packaged foodstuffs, an appropriate description, accompanying the name of a particular foodstuff, shall be provided on the main panel, in the immediate proximity of the name in prominent, distinctive letters of the same size, font, colour, prominence and legibility not less than one third of the letter size of the biggest letter of the name; and
- Quantitative Ingredient Declaration (QUID), in cases where the labeling make special emphasis on the presence of one or more valuable or characterising ingredients, or where the description has the same effect, the ingoing percentage of this ingredient at the time of manufacture shall be declared. This requirement in the case of raw-processed meat products, which include IQF chicken portion products, QUID shall be indicated as a percentage for the meat and water content on the main panel in bold letters at least 3mm in height.
The department has noted with concern that a large number of IQF chicken portion products are currently offered for sale to consumers of which the above-mentioned labeling requirements are not adhered to. In some instances the information related to QUID is provided, however, the description of these products fails to inform the consumer that the products purchased by them is a composite foodstuff consisting of chicken portions to which the processor added a brine based mixture or solution. The brine based mixture/solution consists normally of water and salt, as well as food additives such as thickeners and flavourants, which has been added by means of injecting the mixture/solution into the chicken portions.
The department is further concerned that in some instances the percentage of brine based mixtures/solutions added to chicken portions are as high as 30%, (of which 29% normally consists of water), which negatively affects the quality characteristics from a nutritional perspective, as well as the increase the level of salt present, of these products. In view of the percentage of brine based mixture/solution added being considered a quality issue; the matter is currently receiving the attention of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), as provided for in the applicable legislation of that department.
The department has engaged the relevant industry over a period of time to provide guidance and assistance, among others, through its representative body, the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), to ensure that the IQF chicken portion products processed/sold, are correctly label as prescribed by Act 54 of 1972 and the Regulations relating to the Labelling and Advertising of Foodstuffs (No. R.146 of 1 March 2010), in respect of the proper description and QUID information required on the labels and associated advertising material. However, due to lack of co-operation from some processors/sellers, the department considered it necessary to inform consumers regarding the situation in question. This is to ensure that they are in a position to make an informed decision when purchasing these products, without being misled in this regard. In instances where the information on the labels is not clear and/or suspected of being incomplete, consumers are urged to request clarification regarding the composition of the products offered for sale to them from sellers and/or shop owners.
In the event of non-compliant products encountered, consumers should further bring this to the attention of the Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) employed by the metro and district municipalities rendering municipal health services, for further investigation and remedial action, where required. The department has also informed the mentioned authorities regarding this situation and requested them to visit processors/sellers within their areas of jurisdiction and to ensure that appropriate law enforcement steps are taken where non-compliance of labels of IQF chicken portion products occurs.
For more information please contact:
Tel: 012 395 8493
Cell: 079 517 3333
Issued by: Department of Health
12 Sep 2012
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