Peanut butter lovers, beware! The National Consumer Commission (NCC) has launched an investigation into the manufacturer responsible for several recalled peanut butter products due to unacceptably high levels of aflatoxin deemed unsafe for human consumption. Consumers are warned to not eat contaminated peanut butter as it can cause serious illness.
The commission is investigating the affairs of the manufacturer, House of Natural Butters (Pty) Ltd.
According to the NCC, peanut butter products include:
- Dis-Chem’s Lifestyle 400 grams Smooth and Crunchy;
- Dis-Chem’s Lifestyle 800 grams Smooth and Crunchy;
- Wazoogles Superfoods – all sizes starting from 32g to 20kg;
- Pick n Pay’s No Name 1kg smooth; and
- Eden All Natural
Unsafe products a health hazard
Acting National Consumer Commissioner Thezi Mabuza has assured that the NCC will also conduct a nationwide assessment to establish whether other brands are affected.
“The commission urges the manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of peanut butter to comply with regulations and conduct urgent tests to assess the safety of the products on their shelves, and take immediate corrective steps if found to be unsafe,” she said.
“The Consumer Protection Act requires that goods that pose any risk of harm to the consumer be recalled. It is the responsibility of the manufacturers, importers, and retailers to ensure that goods comply with all applicable laws and standards of the Republic.
“Aflatoxin may lead to health complications, including but not limited to nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. We, therefore, urge South African consumers who have the recalled products (No Name brand, the Eden All Natural brand, Wazoogles Superfoods, and Dischem’s Lifestyle brand) to immediately stop consuming these products and return the products to a point of purchase for a full refund, with or without proof of purchase,” she emphasised.
What is aflatoxin?
According to Johannesburg-based owner of Nandhi Solutions and food safety assurance expert, Cindy Moodley, aflatoxins are toxic compounds produced by certain molds, particularly Aspergillus species, which can contaminate various agricultural products such as grains, nuts, and seeds.
She says some of the dangers and health risks associated with aflatoxin contamination include:
- Liver damage: Aflatoxins are mainly broken down in the liver. Long-term exposure to them can harm the liver, causing liver cancer, hepatitis, and cirrhosis.
- Immunosuppression: Aflatoxin exposure weakens the immune system, making people more prone to infections and illnesses.
- Acute toxicity: Consuming a lot of aflatoxins quickly can cause severe poisoning with symptoms like vomiting, stomach pain, seizures, and sometimes death.
- Reproductive Issues: Aflatoxin exposure may lead to reproductive problems such as infertility, miscarriages, and birth defects.
- Contaminated food supply: Aflatoxin contamination can harm a lot of food, causing farmers and producers to lose money and possibly leading to food shortages in affected areas.
Reduce the risk
To reduce the dangers of aflatoxin contamination, Moodley says it’s crucial to store, process, and monitor food properly.
Furthermore, if a person with a peanut allergy thinks they ate contaminated peanuts, Moodley urges them to watch for signs of both aflatoxin poisoning and an allergic reaction such as:
- Skin reactions
- Respiratory symptoms
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Cardiovascular symptoms
What to do if someone consumed contaminated peanut butter
If someone suspects they have consumed contaminated peanut butter, she advises that they should take the following steps:
- First, they should check their symptoms. If they notice any signs of an allergic reaction like itching, hives, swelling, trouble breathing, or stomach issues, they need to act quickly.
- Use Epinephrine: If the allergy is severe or shows signs of anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction), they should use their epinephrine auto-injector right away, like an EpiPen. Then, they must seek emergency medical help promptly while following the instructions for the auto-injector.
- Seek Medical Attention
- Monitor symptoms: After using epinephrine and getting medical help, they should keep a close eye on their symptoms and follow any extra advice given by healthcare professionals.
- Avoid further exposure: It’s crucial to stop eating contaminated peanut butter or any other peanut foods. Also, people with peanut allergies need to be careful with foods they didn’t prepare themselves, as they might be at risk of cross-contamination.
- Inform Others: If the peanut butter that might be contaminated was eaten in a shared place or given by someone else, it’s vital to tell others about the possible danger.
“Quickly seeking medical help is vital for someone who thinks they ate contaminated peanut butter. It’s essential to take allergic reactions seriously and be ready to act fast in case of an emergency,” she says.
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