A range of inferior products are being brought into South Africa at highly competitive prices, but without sticking to the country’s laws on labelling. Not only do these products have consequences for consumers because the labels are not 100% correct, but they also harm local suppliers, who cannot compete on pricing while offering a superior product, says Amanda Rogaly, MD of FoodSure.
In addition, says Rogaly, consumers are being duped out of their hard-earned money because they believe that they are getting what they are paying for, although at a better price. “The age-old adage of ‘if it’s too good to be true, it’s not true’ applies, but consumers are often not savvy enough, or think the deal is genuine, to pick up if the product is not what it says it is.”
Rogaly points out, for example, “pure” virgin olive oil is landing in SA at a fraction of the cost of what Western Cape farmers can make it for. She says it is being diluted with other oils, such as sunflower oil, and is far from pure.
“While this may not be a problem for all consumers, those who use olive oil because of health issues such as cholesterol, or allergies, are being taken for a ride.” This has potential harmful consequences, says Rogaly.
According to the SA Olive Industry Association, olive oil contains high levels (65 – 85%) of monounsaturated fatty acids, which maintain the healthiest cholesterol balance and is a higher level than most cooking oils. In addition, extra virgin olive oil is strongly anti-oxidant, and rich in vitamins E, A, D and K, it says. The association also notes that the monounsaturated fat can benefit non insulin-dependent diabetics.
However, Rogaly says inferior imported oils undermine these benefits. She concurs with the association that no product that does not deserve to be classified as Extra Virgin should be allowed to be labelled and sold as Extra Virgin Olive Oil.
In addition, the problem is not limited to olive oil, as sub-standard products are coming into SA all the time, says Rogaly.
FoodSure has a solution with its SureMark accreditation, which aims to protect consumers – and reward honest producers – says Rogaly. “For a minimal fee, producers can have their products tested and, if what the label says they contain is what is in the bottle, we award them the SureMark.”
This has the benefit of winning back consumers’ trust, and rewarding companies that play by the rules, says Rogaly. She adds that this, along with other FoodSure initiatives such as access to a knowledge base and networking opportunities, will aid and help grow the local agricultural and meat producing sectors.
Testing is done by FoodSure’s scientific partners, including Swift Silliker and the CSIR – and is undertaken in accordance with the strictest international requirements, says Rogaly. “This means that consumers can rest assured that the SureMark gives certainty over what is in the product, and producers can offer home-grown products with pride.”