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Cablegate: South Africa: Product Safety


DE RUEHSA #2936/01 2341012
R 221012Z AUG 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 114788

1. In response to reftel, emboffs spoke with the South
Africa Bureau of Standards, Department of Trade and Industry,
International Trade Administration Commission of South
Africa, South Africa Revenue Service and the Department of
Health's (DOH) Directorate of Food Control regarding food and
consumer product safety. The DOH expressed an interest in
further discussion on this topic. South Africa's current
procedures for product safety are highlighted below. Post
will continue to follow up with key officials in these
departments to continue a dialogue on this issue.

Food Safety

2. South Africa has a well-developed commercial agriculture
and food production system. Food Safety is regulated under
at least fourteen government acts that are administered and
enforced by several government authorities and assignees at
the national, provincial, and municipal levels. The
Department of Health (DOH) is the primary food safety/control
regulatory body, but coordinates closely with the National
Department of Agriculture (NDA). South Africa's agricultural
and food exports generally meet international standards. In
addition to DOH and NDA, South Africa' exports must also meet
standards established by South African Bureau of Standards
and the Perishable Products Export Control Board with
guidance from industry working groups.

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3. South Africa is a relatively minor supplier of
agricultural and food products to the United States. In
2006, U.S. imports of South African ag/food products were
valued at 203 million USD, with seafood adding an additional
31 million USD. (Total U.S. ag/food imports last year were
valued at 65.3 billion USD.) Nearly 80 percent of the South
African ag/food products imported by the United States are
"consumer-oriented food items", predominantly fresh fruit (67
million USD) and wine (42 million USD). Other major products
include processed fruits and vegetables, including juices (21
million USD), sugar (20 million USD), and tree nuts (13
million USD). USDA works closely with South African
exporters with regard to meeting U.S. plant and animal health

Consumer Product Safety

4. South Africa is in the process of fine tuning its
consumer and product safety regulatory systems. Product
safety is governed by several regulatory agencies depending
on the product. The South African Bureau of Standards (SABS)
is the lead agency for public safety and consumer protection
issues and is responsible for enforcement of compulsory
minimum standards for the safety and performance of selected
products that are considered inherently risky. SABS
standards, which are aligned with international standards
when possible, cover products such as vehicles, electrical
and electronic goods and components, chemicals, foods, and
weapons. Compulsory standards are applicable to all locally
manufactured products, imported products, and products
destined for export. SABS enforces the compulsory standards
through physical audits, market surveillance, and
manufacturing plant inspections. SABS has authority to issue
sanctions ranging from cancellation of the sale of
non-conforming products to destruction and prosecution.

5. The range of covered products can also be extended
through a request to SABS with a subsequent assessment as to
the dangers of the product to the public. Other categories
of products are regulated by various agencies, such as food
products mentioned above, pharmaceuticals, which are governed
by the Department of Health's Medicine Control Council, and
fuel, oil and power products, which are regulated by the
Department of Minerals and Energy.

6. The majority (60 percent) of SA exports to the U.S. are
not consumer or food products, but consist of base metals,
precious stones, and other mining related items. Most of the
consumer products that were exported to the U.S. last year
fall within those categories monitored by SABS. Manufactured
products are 38 percent of SA's exports to the U.S. valued at
15.6 billion rand (2.2 billion USD). Vehicles constitute 11
percent, chemical exports another 8 percent, and mechanical
an electrical appliances 7 percent.

7. Products that fall outside of SABS or other regulatory
agencies' purview are not regulated or standardized for
safety concerns. For example, defective toy products that
have been recent subject of recalls in the U.S. are not
governed by any regulations. A draft Consumer Protection
Bill (CPB) is in the middle of the legislative process, but
due to delays and re-drafts, it likely will not be approved
until latter 2008. The CPB is designed to impose an
obligation on manufacturers to ensure safe products and
includes mechanisms for consumers to seek redress for
manufacturing defects, a process for product recalls. The
CPB will also create a National Consumer Council to monitor
consumer products in the market. In addition, a draft
Regulator for Compulsory Specification Bill is currently
before Parliament, which would enable SABS to be more
flexible in the application of standards (i.e., making
exceptions for locally manufactured products being exported
to countries with varying standards).

Areas For Dialogue

8. South Africa faces many of the same concerns as the
United States with regard to the safety of food and consumer
product imports and may be willing to be a useful partner
both bilaterally and multilaterally on the safety of these
imports. Compared to the rather rigorous standards for
domestically produced food products and products destined for
the export market, we believe that South Africa's controls
over food imports are relatively weak. In recent years,
South Africa has encountered food safety problems related to
chemicals, antibiotics and other contaminants in imported
food products. The limited range of consumer products
governed by regulations is also an area in which a
partnership may help to enhance overall consumer protection
with both imported and exported products. The DOH has
already expressed a shared interest in pursuing further
discussions. Should SA be interested in pursuing potential
cooperative programs, post would be interested in knowing if
there are practical resources available to engage SA.

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