> Cape Town Curtails Car-Boot Caterers - The Food Safety Company Cape Town Curtails Car-Boot Caterers - The Food Safety Company
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    Friday, 16 December 2016

    Cape Town Curtails Car-Boot Caterers

    Food safety concerns have been cited by authorities in Cape Town, SA, as necessitating a crack-down on food vendors selling cuisine from their car boots. However, things are potentially more complicated than they seem.

    It’s not just Cape Town to which the issue relates. Over the past few months, this less formal kind of takeaway food service has prospered in various parts of South Africa, given the country’s recent economic troubles; the major effects of which have included the need for many to cut back on spending when it comes to things like expensive takeaway food. As News 24 explained in November, ‘since times are tough and food prices have risen drastically, this luxury has now become scarce.’

    Nevertheless, such a context has also entailed that the provision of cheaper alternatives is a potential goldmine for budding entrepreneurs looking to capitalise on a market gap wherein consumers want a more affordable option whilst eating in without having to cook. As Times Live reports, the past few weeks have seen an upsurge in people selling food from car boots.

    However, as the informal industry grew (unregulated and technically illegal) the pressure toward governmental intervention from local food sellers who found their regular business being taken away, also mounted. Now, as summer draws close (which in South Africa lasts from January to April), a mayoral committee based in the nation’s capital claims it’s time to stop.

    As councillor Siyabulela Mamkeli said on Tuesday, ‘We do not want to be the Grinch that steals people’s entrepreneurial spirit‚ but we have a duty to protect the public...There are laws around the preparation and transportation of food that City Health has to enforce. We cannot turn a blind eye as that would not be fair to legal traders or the public in the event that someone gets sick.’

    In a separate statement, city officials claimed: ‘the fact is that such sales are illegal and possibly dangerous to consumers.’ As Times Live reports, food safety regulations in Cape Town require good controls in terms of the business’ premises, hygiene, storage, temperature and contamination prevention.

    However, it’s also the case that informal industries are part and parcel of everyday life pretty much all over the world. Certain countries differ in terms of the size of their informal sector; but all countries have one, to which authorities are quite often happy to turn a blind eye. South Africa is an incredibly unequal country in terms of wealth distribution; meaning its informal economy is important for many in terms of employment and provision and day-to-day income. The contention in this case, however, is the fact that an industry within this category has grown too large, too quickly.

    So, politically, the state needs to intervene in order to reassert the notion that it’s in control of what’s going on under its nose, as well as to maintain the primacy of civil society over its ‘political’ cousin (which is important in the upkeep of normal appearances). Meanwhile, economically, the move has been made that the state might reassure local businesses that their profits are safe, and capitalise upon tax revenue from such a lucrative sector if it can be bought into the governmental taxation fold. Socially, almost certainly at-play is the tension between the privileged and their upwardly mobile counterparts, which decries such entrepreneurialism coming from below; and culturally, food is a thing which has historically been controlled by the wealthy in terms of its perceived meanings and chaperones.

    Those factors undoubtedly underlie the language of food safety in which the news is coming. Still, it’s a handy go-to in this case in the exercising of effective governance; meaning authorities beyond Cape Town are likely to follow suit.  

    James Stannard

    James has a Bachelor’s degree in History and wrote his dissertation on beef and protest. His heroes list ranges from Adele to Noam Chomsky: inspirations he’ll be invoking next year when he begins a Master’s degree in London.
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