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Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants

What we put into and onto our bodies form the subjects of commercial enterprise too vast – and impossible – to measure. Nevertheless, the awakening of knowledge about health issues related to consumables continues to result in ever-increasing controls on manufacture, advertising, sale, packaging and labelling.

The Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act 19721 is one of the earlier pieces of legislation designed to implement such controls.

  • A ‘foodstuff’ is any article or substance ordinarily eaten or drunk by a person (except a medicine) or purporting to be suitable, or manufactured or sold for human consumption.
  • A ‘cosmetic’ is any article, preparation or substance to be applied to the human body (except a medicine) for purposes of appearance or fragrance.
  • A ‘disinfectant’ is any article or substance to be used or applied as a germicide, preservative, antiseptic, cleansing material or non-cosmetic deodorant.

A. The regulations

There are literally hundreds of regulated provisions promulgated under this Act. Although their details are not within the scope of this book, a list of the current regulations is included in the reference section, just to illustrate. In short, the regulations govern just about anything to do with: + the ingredients, process or method, and the appliances and containers used in the manufacture, packing, labelling, storage and conveyance of any foodstuffs, cosmetic or disinfectant; + the preparation, serving or administering of any foodstuff or cosmetic.

It is an offence to fail to comply with any of these regulations.2

B. Sale, manufacture and importation

  1. It is an offence to sell, manufacture, or import (for sale)3 any foodstuff, cosmetic or disinfectant:
    • which contains or has been treated with a substance prohibited by regulation;4
    • which contains more of a particular substance than is permitted by regulation;5
    • which has been treated with a substance more than is permitted by regulation;6 or
    • which does not comply with any standards prescribed by regulation.7
  2. It is a crime to deal in any foodstuff or cosmetic:
    • which is contaminated, impure or decayed;8
    • which, by regulation, is deemed to be harmful or injurious to human health;9 or
    • which contains or has been treated with a contaminated, impure or decayed substance or a substance deemed by regulation to be harmful or injurious to human health.10
  3. It is a crime to deal in any foodstuff:
    • which contains or has been treated with a substance not present in any such foodstuff in its normal condition;11 12
    • whose mass or volume has been increased in order to deceive;13
    • from which any substance or ingredient has been extracted (or omitted) resulting in detriment, or a diminished nutritive value in comparison with such foodstuff in its normal condition, except if the extraction or omission is necessary for packing, storage or consumption;14
    • which is damaged or in unsound condition, or of inferior quality, and has been treated to conceal (whether entirely or partly) that condition or quality.15
  4. A person shall be guilty of an offence if he sells any foodstuff which is a mixture or compound of different foodstuffs, or of different kinds or grades of the same foodstuff, otherwise than in a package bearing a label which indicates clearly:16
    • that the foodstuff is such a mixture, compound or blend; and
    • the names or kinds or grades of the ingredients and the proportions or amounts in which they are present.
  5. It is a criminal offence to:
    • publish a false or misleading advertisement concerning any foodstuff, cosmetic or disinfectant;17
    • describe, for purposes of sale, any foodstuff, cosmetic or disinfectant in a manner which is false or misleading as regards any of its properties or manufacture;18 or
    • deal in any foodstuff, cosmetic or disinfectant described in such manners.19
  6. It is an offence to furnish a warranty which is false or misleading in respect of any foodstuff, cosmetic or disinfectant.20

  7. An offence committed by an employee, manager or agent shall be deemed to be the offence of the employer or principal, unless the contrary is proven.21

  8. If, according to the label of any foodstuff, cosmetic or disinfectant which is sold in a sealed package, and which does not comply with the provisions of the Act, you imported, manufactured or packed the article in question, it will be presumed that you did import, manufacture or pack such article (as the case may be) and you may be convicted unless the contrary is proven.22

C. Inspectors

Inspectors are appointed by the Director-General in the Department of Health. They have wide powers of inspection, search, interrogation, measuring, sealing, and seizure.

  1. It is an offence to:
    • obstruct an inspector in the performance of his duties;23
    • refuse or fail to give to an inspector an explanation or information, once requested, or to give an explanation or information which is false or misleading;24
    • remove, damage, break or open any mark, seal or fastening placed by an inspector on any foodstuff, cosmetic or disinfectant;25
    • pretend to be an inspector;26
    • take any sample or other article obtained or seized by an inspector;27
    • falsely use any warranty, certificate, report, invoice or other document in connection with any foodstuff, cosmetic or disinfectant;28
    • use any report or certificate furnished by an inspector, or any analyst, for purposes of business or trade.29
  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 39 of 2007. 

  2. Section 2(1)(a)(iv). 

  3. Hereinafter, all referred to as ‘deal in’. 

  4. Section 2(1)(a)(i). 

  5. Section 2(1)(a)(ii). 

  6. Section 2(1)(a)(ii). 

  7. Section 2(1)(a)(iii). 

  8. Section 2(1)(b)(i). 

  9. Section 2(1)(b)(i). 

  10. Section 2(1)(b)(ii). 

  11. Except if such substance becomes present as a result of the process of collection or manufacture; or if the substance is not harmful and is a necessary addition for packing, storage, or consumption. 

  12. Section 2(1)(c)(i). 

  13. Section 2(1)(c)(ii). 

  14. Section 2(1)(c)(iii) read with section 2(2)(c). 

  15. Section 2(1)(c)(iv). 

  16. Section 3(1). 

  17. Section 5(1)(a). 

  18. Section 5(1)(b). 

  19. Section 5(1)(c). 

  20. Section 7(2). 

  21. Section 8. 

  22. Section 9. 

  23. Section 17(a). 

  24. Section 17(b). 

  25. Section 17(c). 

  26. Section 17(d). 

  27. Section 17(e). 

  28. Section 17(f). 

  29. Section 17(g).