PECB signs a partnership agreement with Chimera Systems

PECB, a reputable certification body, has pleasingly engaged into a partnership with Chimera Systems to upgrade its presence in South Africa by offering the distribution of PECB training courses on a wide range of international standards.

“We are looking forward to working with Chimera Systems to integrate their expertise and help customers achieve higher levels of satisfaction. We are very excited for this agreement, and we have always welcomed partnership opportunities with such companies that are consistent with and appropriate to our mission,” said Eric Lachapelle, CEO of PECB. “The relationship with Chimera Systems represents a powerful opportunity for PECB to significantly expand our presence in South Africa, a vibrant and very important market, and extend it to other parts of the world over time,” concluded Lachapelle.

David James Scott, and Gillian Katinka de Villiers, Directors, Chimera Systems
Chimera Systems is delighted to be in partnership with PECB, an international company of global repute. In today’s worldwide economy there is increasing concern to ensure the integrity of products and services. Companies are under immense pressure to show due diligence and demonstrate compliance to international standards. Chimera Systems’ core focus in this business venture with PECB will be expanding the reach of Health, Safety, Environment and Quality Management Systems within Southern Africa. To this end we are dedicated to the development of organisations and their personnel in the field of management systems in achieving global recognition through accredited PECB certification. Integral to our vision is the development of PECB brand awareness and their presence in Southern Africa. Chimera Systems and its directors are excited at the opportunity that partnership with PECB affords to provide peace of mind to South African company owners and consumers through international certification.

About PECB
PECB is a certification body for persons, management systems, and products on a wide range of international standards. As a global provider of training, examination, audit, and certification services, PECB offers its expertise on multiple fields, including but not limited to Information Security, IT, Business Continuity, Service Management, Quality Management Systems, Risk & Management, Health, Safety, and Environment.

We help professionals and organizations to show commitment and competence with internationally recognized standards by providing this assurance through the education, evaluation and certification against rigorous, internationally recognized competence requirements. Our mission is to provide our clients comprehensive services that inspire trust, continual improvement, demonstrate recognition, and benefit society as a whole. For further information regarding PECB principal objectives and activities, visit www.pecb.com.

About Chimera Systems
Chimera Systems was founded as an independent consultancy specialising in the areas of quality management systems, and labelling, and is based in Cape Town, South Africa. We provide our clients with the support, training and other dedicated services required to fulfil the unique needs of each project. With a wide background in local and international regulations and standards, we provide assistance to the industry in understanding the quality, legal and safety obligations concerning the products they provide.

Chimera Systems offers support to food manufacturers striving for food safety to implement a reliable Food Safety Management System certifiable to internationally recognised standards. All of our products and services come with the training packages required by these standards to manage and implement an effective Food safety Management System. We provide refresher training where required to ensure continual maintenance and improvement of each management system. Chimera Systems offers gap analysis and pre-certification auditing to verify efficacy of the management system prior to certification.

To ensure compliance of products at market level we offer a wide range of label compliance reviews for local and export markets. These reviews enable our clients to keep abreast of the legal requirements and standards around labelling and advertising of their products.

Food Labels

Food Regulation in South Africa


But I didn’t know: A brief guide to Food Regulation in South Africa

When manufacturers think of “Food regulations”, generally the first things that will pop to mind are the Labelling regulations (R146/2010). Furthermore, if they are asked who governs the food regulations in South Africa, I would imagine the first response you would get is the Department of Health. Although not incorrect, the Department of Health is only one of the bodies tasked with the regulation of food in South Africa. Likewise, the Labelling regulations are only a few of a plethora of regulations directed at the management of food safety and the rights and wellbeing of the consumer. Our aim with this article is to try and provide you with a brief overview of the regulatory landscape of food within South Africa.

There are three main government departments tasked with the management of Food Safety and Quality, namely the Department of Health (DoH), Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) – See hierarchy on lefthand panel. These departments have very specific mandates.

The DoH is tasked with the management of food hygiene (certifying manufacturers – Certificate of Acceptability), developing food safety & quality standards, and managing the country’s food labelling, nutrition and fortification requirements.

Under the DoH, Directorate: Food control is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the DoH food regulation, and to provide consumers with the power to make informed food choices without being misguided.

Similarly, the Chief Directorate: Health Promotion and Nutrition (previously, Directorate of Nutrition) is tasked with the development of a national nutrition programme and the administration of the baby foods and infant formula regulations.

DAFF is responsible for regulating agricultural products including traditional processed products such as jams, vinegars, pickles, honey and canned vegetables, through to dairy products, ice- creams, meat and poultry. It is interesting that the scope of DAFF’s administration does not only cover agronomy, agricultural practices and fresh produce, but extends also to agricultural product standards relating to labelling (grading and marking), import and export. DAFF regulations are promulgated at National level, but enforcement takes place at Provincial level. Thus always ensure that any agricultural products are passed by your local DAFF inspector before being placed on the shelf.

The other regulatory authority, the DTI regulates all canned meats, canned and frozen fish and seafood. Under the DTI, these products are regulated by the National Regulator for Compulsory Specifications (NRCS) through technical regulations known as compulsory specifications. All facilities that produce these products must abide by the strict requirements of these compulsory specifications (VC documents).

As you can see the food regulatory environment within South Africa is understandably quite complex, as different authorities regulate different aspects of labelling, food safety, facility design and product standards. For this reason it is imperative to ensure that all aspects around a product have been addressed before going to market. In many organisations this expertise is available in-house, however in other cases or with highly technical foods it can be well worthwhile to engage the services of a food safety and food labelling consultant.

Article by: David Scott


They are everywhere!?

Bacteria on culture medium

Microbes are ubiquitous in our surroundings, but from a food production aspect our main concern are pathogens and indicator organisms. Pathogens are bacteria that cause people to become ill, while indicator organisms present at unsatisfactory levels indicate that hygiene is a concern and that there may be other harmful bacteria. E.coli for example is an indicator of faecal contamination. E.coli could indicate bad hygiene practices in the production area (for example not washing hands), but could also indicate transfer of faecal contaminants from the field in the case of fresh vegetables. Indicator organisms help us to identify problem areas and put steps in place to prevent reoccurrence.


Drugs and Superbugs

Microscopic image of Klebsiella Pneumonia

Since the discovery of Penicillin, nearly 100 years ago, antibiotics have been used in medicine and allied industries in the fight against disease causing bacteria. Sadly due to our excessive and uncontrolled use of these substances, bacteria have begun to resist antibiotics, the dawn of the “superbug”.

Superbug is a term used to describe bacterial strains that have developed an immunity to multiple antibiotics that can no longer kill them [1]. Some of these superbugs include multi-drug- resistant tuberculosis (not transmitted through food) and an emerging food pathogen Klebsiella pneumonia, a major cause of pneumonia.

Although not commonly categorised as a food borne pathogen, Klebsiella pneumonia has emerged as a contaminant in a number of studies in the US on retail meat and poultry. These respective studies showed that 14% of Chicken samples and 47% of meat samples tested contained the pathogen. Even more alarming is that 8.5% of the Klebsiella pneumonia were multi- drug resistant. These studies also showed startlingly high levels of drug resistance among Salmonella (38%) and E.coli (40%) isolated from these meat samples [2].

In South Africa numerous studies have been done on bacteria isolated from cattle and poultry that have shown many of these to be resistant to at least one antibiotic. Notably, resistance to Avoparcin, which has been banned since the early 90s was found in 66% of E.coli isolates from poultry in a study conducted in 2002. Avoparcin was banned internationally due to its close relations to Vancomycin, a last line of defence against multiple drug resistant bacteria [3].

The regulations governing the maximum limits for veterinary medicine and stock remedy remedy residues (R. 1809 of 1992) governs the use of antibiotics in livestock in South Africa. These regulations have been written with the intension of regulating the maximum allowable levels in food consumed by the consumer and are not aimed at controlling the use and abuse of antibiotics by the producer. Apart from treating disease, it has been common practice in South Africa to use antibiotics as a prevention against disease and as growth promoters [3].

Studies have shown that over time bacteria are able to build up a tolerance to these low levels of antibiotic, acquiring and transferring these resistance genes amongst each other. The cattle and their manure become major vehicles for transferring these resistant bacterial strains to farm personnel [4]. Further human-to-human contact spreads the bacteria and their resistance genes along with them. In other cases the cattle are slaughtered and the resistant bacteria are passed onto the consumer via the meat.

In light of this, although regulations are in place to control maximum residue limits of antibiotics in meat and poultry, it is the responsibility of the producer to be due diligent. Farmers would do well to consider the implications of using antibiotics, except for the treatment of disease.

Article by: David James Scott

1. National Institutes of Health, News in Health 2014. Stop the spread of Superbugs: Help fight drug-resistant bacteria. Available from:<https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/ feb2014/feature1>. [12 Feb 2016].
2. Consumer Reports, Product Reviews 2014. Dangerous contaminated chicken. Available from: <http:// www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/02/the-high- cost-of-cheap-chicken/index.htm>. [12 Feb 2016].
3. Henton, M.M. Eagar, H.A. Swan, G.E. van Vuuren, M. 2011. Part VI. Antibiotic management and resistance in livestock production. SAMJ 101(8).
4. Bester, L.A. Essack, S.Y. 2010. Antibiotic resistance via the food chain: fact or fiction? South African Journal of Science 106(9/10) Art. 281.


My supplier did what?

Many manufacturers are unaware of the extent to which the safety of their end product is dependent on their suppliers. Like the man in the image to the left, each producer in the food chain plays a vital role in holding the chain together to maintain food safety and legality of the end product.

As a food manufacturer you may have asked yourself questions to the tune of “I produce chocolate brownies, why should I worry about pesticides or heavy metals!” – The problem is that our suppliers often aren’t aware of the legal limits of contaminants related to their products. This is often exacerbated when buying raw materials from distributors or importing products, as these legal limits sometimes differ from country to country.

It is important to realise that these limits set by the South African government are not guidelines and that it is a criminal offence to sell product that does not meet the legal limits. Ultimately the onus is on the manufacturer to ensure that their supplier provides them with product that is safe and legally compliant.
So what’s the solution? Firstly, know the legal limits of the products being supplied to you, and secondly if your supplier is supplying product that is legal. To assist producers a set of tools are available to monitor and manage suppliers and include product specifications, certificates of analysis (CoA), supplier assessments, questionnaires, audits and lab tests. To be effective these tools require you as the producer to know what questions to ask your suppliers. Let’s take a brief look.

First, what are the legal limits? We will cover some of the regulations in this issue of Chimera News, but if you have specific questions about the regulations for your product, give us a call.

Ask your suppliers for a specification for each product they supply you with. At minimum these will contain the ingredients, allergens and legal limits for contaminants applicable to the product.

Request a CoA for each batch of product. This is a record showing that the product conforms. If legal limits exist these must appear on the CoA or a laboratory report issued with the CoA.

Supplier assessments, questionnaires and audits assess the supplier’s level of compliance to food safety standards. Ask your supplier what food safety certifications they have, if any, and if they comply to good manufacturing practices (GMP).

Lastly, lab tests can be used to verify conformity, but are expensive and most effective when combined with a risk assessment to determine products that are at greatest risk. Where possible place the responsibility for raw material testing on the supplier.

These are just some of the tools available to help producers manage their end of the supply chain more effectively.

Article by: David James Scott


What are food contaminants?

Agricultural contaminants, environmental contaminants and adulterants, these can be considered as the three main sources of food contaminants. The agricultural contaminants include pesticides and veterinary drugs. Environmental contaminants are those chemicals transferred to food during growing, processing, packaging, storage or distribution; these include heavy metals, mycotoxins, histamine and chemical toxins. Adulterants are substances intentionally added to foodstuffs that are either harmful to the consumer, illegal present or constitute food fraud.