Ensuring Food Safety And Standards: A Call For Consumer Awareness

Uaatjo Kaurimuje

In the landscape of consumer rights, few issues carry as much weight as food safety and standards. Consuming goods with assurance that they fulfil strict quality standards is not merely a matter of preference, but a necessary component for public health.

In Namibia, while the absence of comprehensive consumer protection laws presents challenges, the Standards Act (Act No. 18 of 2005) has laid down vital measures through the Namibian Standards Institution to mitigate potential risks across some sectors, notably focusing on fish and fishery products, shellfish, potable water, sea water and aquaculture waste.

Responsibility for upholding food safety standards spans the entire supply chain, from production to consumption. Manufacturers and packers are directly responsible for making sure that the food they make or pack complies with set standards. Any deviation from these standards exposes them to legal repercussions.

Similarly, sellers, wholesalers and distributors bear significant accountability, including supplying food beyond its expiry date, disregarding storage or safety instructions, dealing in unsafe or misbranded food and violating storage or handling regulations. Any activity that jeopardises food safety, whether by addition, usage, abstraction or treatment, makes the responsible party accountable and may subject them to consumer claims for compensation.

In the assessment of food safety and potential health risks, numerous factors must be considered, including the normal conditions of use and handling, available consumer information, health-related guidance, evaluation of food quality and adherence to standards.

Violations related to food safety and standards include selling sub-standard or misbranded food, engaging in misleading advertising or unhygienic manufacturing processes. Such violations may lead to penalties which could serve as deterrents against compromising consumer safety.

While existing legislation provides a foundation for ensuring food safety and standards in certain sectors, there is ample room for improvement. The establishment of an independent regulatory body tasked with crafting stringent codes of practice, particularly concerning food safety and standards, could greatly enhance consumer protection efforts in Namibia.

These measures would not only reinforce accountability throughout the supply chain, but also empower consumers to make informed choices and demand adherence to the highest standards of food safety.

In essence, the pursuit of food safety goes beyond simple legal requirements, it is a moral duty critical to protecting the health and well-being of all consumers.

As stakeholders interact and regulatory frameworks develop, the overriding aim remains constant: to maintain the highest standards of safety and quality in the foods that sustain our communities. Consumer awareness and engagement are key drivers in achieving this shared objective.

  • Uaatjo Kaurimuje is a consumer protection advocate and freelance writer. She has a postgraduate diploma in consumer protection law and practices from the National Law School of India, an LLB from Studio, a B-Juris from the University of Namibia, and more than 10 years of vast experience in consumer protection. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent their employer, organisation, committee or other legislative groups.

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