The recent aflatoxin levels alert has shone the spotlight on food safety testing and the upholding of consumer and human rights. Image: Supplied.

Consumer and human rights: Why food safety regulators are key

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The past two months have shown how the humblest of household food items can lead us to question the safety of what we add as part of a daily, healthy diet.  

Aflatoxin, the compound found in popular food items, has come under the spotlight, but has provided the public a chance to unpack the critical role food testing plays in upholding consumer rights – a topical issue this World Consumer Rights Month.


World Health Organisation describes aflatoxins as a type of mycotoxin, which are naturally occurring toxic compounds produced by certain types of moulds (fungi).

In this group of mycotoxins, aflatoxins are amongst the most poisonous and are produced by certain moulds (Aspergillus flavus and Aspergillus parasiticus) which grow in soil, decaying vegetation, hay, and grains. Crops that are frequently affected by it include cereals (corn, sorghum, wheat and rice), oilseeds (soybean, peanut, sunflower and cotton seeds), spices (chili peppers, black pepper, coriander, turmeric and ginger) and tree nuts (pistachio, almond, walnut, coconut and Brazil nut). 

South African retailers, in internal testing, recorded higher than acceptable levels of aflatoxin in a popular food product.

The risk of consuming products with higher than acceptable levels of aflatoxin may lead to complications such as nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

A national Consumer Commission intervention

Subsequent to the reports of aflatoxin levels, the South African National Consumer Commission (NCC) directed all manufacturers to investigate aflatoxin levels in their products, in accordance with Regulation 2(a) of Regulation 1145 of the Foodstuff, Cosmetics, and Disinfectants Act.

This action underscores the importance of Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) certifications in ensuring a thorough approach to food safety from production to consumption.

The NCC has further requested suppliers to submit their Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Certificates (HACCP) – a management system that analyses and controls biological, chemical, and physical hazards from a “farm to fork” cycle.

The outcome of their intervention is yet to be made public.

The role of food testing

Food safety testing via accredited processes such as the HACCP and Regulation 1145 of the Foodstuff, Cosmetics, and Disinfectants Act goes to great lengths to ensure foods are safe to consume.

Leading food safety inspection, testing and certification company, AssureCloud, provides food safety courses that empowers those working with food to comply with regulations for quality and safety. Relevant courses include HACCP awareness and implementation, Regulation 638, Basic Food Safety for Food Handlers, and ISO 22000 training.

Consumer Rights Month

It’s a fortunate coincidence that World Consumer Rights Month falls in the same month that South Africans observe national Human Rights Day.

The right to food, and food that’s safe to eat, is critical in upholding our human rights. The testing of food samples is an important key in ensuring safe food reaches the plates of millions across the country and globe.

The food industry, and consumers at large, now await the outcome of the National Consumer Commission’s intervention, an important step that brings together food safety testing and consumer rights.