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05 December 2023 Media Release: Your Guide to Festive Food Safety

Media Release: Your Guide to Festive Food Safety

For immediate release
5 December 2023

Food has to be fit for humans to eat and must conform to safety requirements as prescribed by law and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Load shedding occurs often in South Africa and these power outages have a direct impact on food safety. Three (3) factors that have a direct impact on food are the length of the outage, how often it occurs and where food is stored. Food safety issues, including spoiling, are especially likely to occur with perishable goods such as fresh meat, poultry, fish, soft cheeses, milk, and leftover food (depending on how long they were stored before load shedding started).

Critical facts to remember

As long as it is cold, food should be safe. Food in a refrigerator may be safe as long as:

  • Power outages do not last longer than four hours.
  • The fridge door is kept closed and not opened often.
  • The temperature of the refrigerator was at 4 °C when load-shedding started.

If a freezer door is kept closed, frozen food will stay frozen for up to 48 hours. Perishable food must be cooked as soon as possible if they begin to defrost. Refreezing perishable food is dangerous.

If the load-shedding schedule is known, one can prepare for it as follows:

  • Ensure that the temperature in the refrigerator is 4 °C or as near to it as possible.
  • Frozen leftovers, milk, fresh meat and poultry, fish, and other goods should be moved from the fridge to the freezer that you might not need right away.
  • Buy fresh food in smaller quantities, prepare it fast, and enjoy it instead of buying it in bulk and storing it in the fridge.
  • Take special note of purchasing long-lasting items, such as unopened canned foods and sterile or ultra-heat heated temperature drinks. These have a lengthy shelf-life outside of the fridge, however, once they’re opened, they too need to be chilled.
  • Another method used to keep perishable goods as cold as possible for as long as possible, is to place ice packs around the items in the fridge.


Given the price of food, one is hesitant to discard food but the risks associated with eating unsafe food is very high. Some perishables might not necessarily smell or taste strange, but may be filled with bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses. Consumers must buy food at food premises that was issued with a Certificate of Acceptability (CoA), where they trade. A CoA is issued by an EHP and must be displayed in a place at the food premises for the public to see. If this is not possible, it must be immediately available on request from customers.


Consumers must look at the labelling and date marking of foodstuffs to make informed decisions regarding the foodstuffs they want to buy. It is important to understand that date marking is a best practice in the food industry and help to protect both food quality and food safety. Pre-packed food must be labelled in accordance with the Regulations relating to the labelling and advertising of foodstuffs, R146 of 1 March 2010.

Click here to read more about fake food and food labelling.

Follow these five keys to safer food.

For further information, please contact:

Mr. Johan Compion, Manager: Municipal Health & Environmental Services,

E-mail: Tel: 044 803 1300 / 082 803 5161