Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Reporter
THERE are fears that some shops and homes in the country have poisoned pilchards following a recall of a batch of the brand from a processing plant in South Africa due to a canning deficiency.
A number of Zimbabweans buy their groceries in South Africa and some receive parcels from relatives based in the neighbouring country. Business people also buy their wares, including food items, from South Africa for resale in the country.
South Africa’s West Point Processors, which supplies the fish, announced the recall on Saturday, citing a “canning deficiency” that may make the product “unfit for human consumption”.
“Because consumer safety is our top priority, we wish to recall some Pilchards in Tomato Sauce products,” the company said in a statement quoted in the South African press.
“The recall is only related to the 400g Pilchards in Tomato Sauce products which have the specific batch codes starting with ZST2 and ZSC2. There is a small possibility that some tins may have a canning deficiency which could make the product unfit for consumption. We are working to identify the issue and ensure that our product meets the high standard our consumers rightly expect from us.”
In an interview yesterday, Industry and Commerce Ministry Deputy Minister Cde Raj Modi urged people to be on the lookout for the condemned batch of fish.
He said people must not be tempted to eat it as it was unsafe.
Cde Modi also urged retailers to remove the condemned product from their shelves.
He said businesspeople who may have bought large consignments of the condemned fish can approach his ministry so that he can engage South African authorities for the Zimbabwean businesspeople to be compensated.
“I advise our wholesalers and retailers in this country to check on the brands they have. If it is any of the brands mentioned in the report and of the affected batch, may they kindly remove them from the shelves. I also call upon border authorities at our ports of entry to ensure that this condemned batch does not find its way into the country. Consumers must report to authorities anyone found selling this product after this warning,” said the Deputy minister.
Tinned foods including various South African brands of pilchards are widely sold in the city, especially in shops that demand cash payments only.
In an interview yesterday, the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe regional manager Mr Comfort Muchekeza said it was highly likely that some Zimbabwean households and retailers have the condemned product.
“The fact that the consignment is being recalled is a sure indication that they are not fit for human consumption. Consumers should be wary of them. There are so many effects on the human body in particular and health-wise in general caused by consuming food not fit for human consumption. Those in the medical field will better know what real effect these particular fish will cause on the human body but as consumers what they need to do even before they fully understand what effects are likely to be caused by consuming them is not to consume them then seek medical advice in case they have already consumed the fish. If need be, get legal advice and assistance in case there is need for redress,” he said.
National Consumer Rights Association coordinator Mr Effie Ncube urged consumers to comply with the recall as it was meant to protect them from potential harm.
“Whenever suppliers recall goods that they sold to consumers, it is important that consumers abide by that recall. That is the case throughout the world because the supplier will be having specific reasons why they are recalling those goods. It may be that they are containing some harmful chemicals or they are defective in one way or the other,” said Mr Ncube.
Shops and supermarkets in the CBD visited by the Chronicle had pilchards’ brands but not the condemned batch code ZST2 and ZSC2.
However, some consumers in Bulawayo who spoke to Chronicle said they had large quantities of tinned fish in their homes that they had bought for “groceries club” to be shared in June and December.
“We buy our groceries in bulk and tinned foods are some of the products we buy early on in the year as they have a long shelf life. We are yet to check all our stuff but it is really worrying. If they are part of the recalled stuff, we would have lost a lot,” said Mrs Sibonelo Dube of Pumula East suburb.
On Tuesday, Botswana’s government issued a statement warning its citizens to be on the lookout for the condemned fish.
“The Ministry of Health and Wellness is in receipt of a communication from the National regulator for compulsory specifications, South Africa, with regards to recall above mentioned products. All pilchard products with the batch code ZST29 and ZSC29 on top of the can are subject to recall. The cause of the recall is due to a deficiency in the canning process. The ministry has advised consumers not to eat the affected products as they are unfit for human consumption and return the affected pilchards products to respective shops for a full refund,” read the statement from the health ministry in Botswana.