Owners of spaza shops have been urged to put their customers first and abide by the laws governing them, especially around hygiene and the quality of produce changing hands. City of Cape Town health authorities have received reports of unhygienic conditions and concerns have been raised about the sale of expired goods. This week, the City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Health, Councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli, visited a number of spaza shops in Manenberg to ensure compliance and raise awareness about the regulations and legislation that shop owners have to abide by.
“In terms of National Food Regulations, the expiry date is there to ensure that the product is still safe and has retained all its nutritional properties. Perishables and cold chain goods should not be sold past the sell-by dates. With regard to shelf stable goods, the item could still be safe to use, but the nutritional value may diminish after the sell-by date,” said Mamkeli.
All businesses, including spaza shops, are bound by the Health Act and Food Regulations, as well as the Business Act (for the sale of prepared foods/takeaways), zoning scheme, building regulations, fire safety legislation and the Tobacco Control Act.
Mamkeli said environmental health practitioners are mandated to conduct visits to business premises at least twice a year, but if problems are identified or complaints are received then more regular inspections are carried out until the problem is resolved.
“Spaza shops are a crucial part of our informal economy and a lifeline to many of our poorer communities in terms of access to goods and services. It is therefore important that we ensure they are compliant and are aware of the pitfalls of selling goods that are expired. We work to encourage them to keep hygiene and health-related factors top of mind,” said Councillor Mamkeli.
Storekeepers are bound by law to keep their premises in an acceptable condition and take measures to prevent pests, such as rodents.
“Another big concern is the sale of cigarettes in contravention of the law. We all know that it is illegal to sell cigarettes to minors. We also know it is illegal to sell loose cigarettes. But if a shop owner is servicing their client’s need, why would the client blow the whistle on them?”
“We encourage free trade and are mindful of economic opportunities, but shop owners also have a duty to protect the health of their customers by keeping their premises in an acceptable condition and selling decent products. It is better to employ good business practices than risk losing customers or having your business closed down because you are violating the law,” added Mamkeli.
Members of the public who have health-related concerns or complaints about businesses can contact their local Environmental Health Office for assistance via their local clinic or the City’s Technical Operations Centre on 0860 103 089.
“If you buy a loaf of bread and perhaps you can see a rodent has eaten on it, take a photo and send it to us. Sometimes these issues can take some time to be sorted out, but if you have it on record, it will be dealth with,” added Mamkeli.
He said the Environmental Health Department will also assist shop owners to familiarise themselves with regulations and legislation and advise them how to ensure that they are compliant. VOC