|dc.description.abstract||Food labelling serves to (a) inform consumers about the attributes of a food product
so that they can make rational and well-informed choices; (b) assist manufacturers in
marketing their product; and (c) warn consumers about the inherent risks of certain
products, or ingredients in the product. The costs of labelling products fully and
informatively are borne by consumers, but the benefits of labelling outweigh the costs. To
understand the role of labelling in an regulatory system it is vital to consider the
arrangement of the provisions protecting consumers generally before considering food laws
and the labelling regulations. Furthermore, due to food being an international product, it
is necessary to consider foreign countries and the manner they go about in protecting
The United Nations, under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) and the \Vorld Health Organization (WHO), established a Joint FAO/WHO Food
Standards Programme, called "Codex Alimentarius". The aim of the programme is to
establish standards that can be used internationally to narrow the gap between developed
countries and developing countries. To establish a standard various organs of the Codex
Alimentarius are consulted. In addition, the standards have to comply with a prescribed
format and follow a specified procedure. For the standard to be observed the member
country has to incorporate the standard into its domestic laws. One of the advantages of
the Codex Alimentarius is that the procedure to establish a standard is flexible. Australia,
United Kingdom and the United States of America are member of the Codex Alimentarius.
Australia, a federation of states, protects consumers by legislating either state
and/or Commonwealth laws. Often there is a combination of statutes. Examples of subjects
that are governed by both Commonwealth and states include false or misleading trade
practices, and weights and measures. Commonwealth laws only deal with the freedom of
information. Food laws are governed exclusively by state legislation. A significant area for
future reform is uniformity of the state food laws. There are also other areas for future
reform (eg date marking).
England and Wales protect consumers by enacting statutes that relate to private and
public rights. The important Acts that protect public rights are the Trade Descriptions Act,
Weights and Measures Act, Consumer Protection Act, Fair Trading Act and Food Act. One
of the provisions of the Criminal Courts Act is to protect personal rights when a consumer
suffers personal injury, loss or damage as a result of the offender committing an criminal
offence. Food labelling is governed by regulations, that are progressive. A fundamental criticism of the legislation and regulations is the lack of appropriate enforcement of the
laws. The enforcement of most of the above Acts is delegated to the local weights and
measures authorities. A further complication is the United Kingdom's membership of the
European Economic Community.
The United States of America enacts federal and state legislation. In protecting
consumers in respect of food, it enacts federal legislation. The important Acts include the
Fair Packaging and Labelling Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry and Poultry
Products Inspection Act and the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The United States
government also encourages openness, with regards to its public agencies, by creating the
Freedom of Information Act. The class action is an innovative remedy established in terms
of the Civil Procedure Act. The enforcement of food laws is delegated to the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA). The protection afforded by the United States government is
complex and sophisticated. Its laws serve as model for many countries.
The common law of South Africa has limited value in safeguarding consumers.
Consumer protection arise mostly by way of legislation and regulations. Consumers are
protected generally by the Measuring Units and National Measuring Standards Act, Trade
Metrology Act, Trade Practices Act and Harmful Business Practices Act, Standards Act,
Dairy Industries Act and the Marketing Act. Consumers are protected against harmful and
injurious foodstuffs by the Foodstuffs, Cosmetics and Disinfectants Act, and the
regulations promulgated in terms of the Act. There are several problems with the laws, eg
lack of enforcement, lack of consumer awareness and education, and so on.
An analysis of the foreign countries discussed in Part II result in the indication of
twel ve themes.
Part III examine the twelve themes and present solutions. Some of the solutions are
based on comparisons with foreign countries discussed in Part 11.
The main issues that need to be addressed in the short-term are the lack of consumer
education and problems of enforcement of consumer protection. Long-term issues include
the feasibility of introducing a department of consumer affairs and the provision of
statutory civil remedies for consumers.||en