The impact of the drought on the food industry in the Western Cape

Food Focus speaks to the City of Cape Town

By Linda Jackson on 24 January 2018

Food Focus chatted to the City of Cape Town about the impact of the drought on the food industry in the Western Cape.


Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security; and Social Services, Alderman JP Smith kindly provided us with the following information:


Q1: With Level 6 water restrictions in the Western Cape an impending eventuality, what impact this will have on all food processors?

The water restrictions impact on all industries and this requires a re-evaluation not only of processes but also of habits. Future investment into water-wise technologies may be needed. Some of these technologies can be implemented or installed at relatively low capital expense. This is a great challenge and everybody must start to think about water-wise practices and, just as importantly, how to change wasteful habits. Just by changing old habits, households are already saving a great deal of water. For industry, it is advisable to do an audit on water use. Do businesses even know how much water is used on a daily basis? Do they know which process or processes are their biggest users of water? Are there any leaks? A faulty cistern or a leaking underground pipe can waste a lot of water. 


Watch out for our webinar with Peter Grobler from Libstar,
where we find out how they have implemented
water saving measures in their facilities in the Western Cape


Q2: What is the impact going to be on maintaining good hygiene practices, when the non–residential properties (business) must reduce their water usage by 45% on food processors?

The food manufacturers will need to review their processes and practices. The use of hand sanitizers will need to be considered to complement hand washing as it is a fact that good hand hygiene is one of the best preventative measures that one can take to avoid cross contamination. It is important to ensure that only the best and most effective disinfectants are used in the cleaning of surfaces.



Q3: Is there any thoughts on how food processors are going to manage this and maintain their usual hygiene practices such as CIP etc.?

Every food manufacturer faces unique and product-specific challenges and it is  therefore  important to focus on the principles contained in any risk management and/or food management system. These principles can certainly be made to fit any food manufacturer, no matter how big or small. Applying these principles together with a water use  audit will give them valuable information on the high-risk or critical control areas.


Q4: What are the impact on food processors, especially high water usage industries like the dairy industry – does this lead to any further concerns for the public regarding pathogens?

Although the dairy industry is probably one of the hardest-hit industries, the pasteurisation of the milk is a crucial safety aspect. The correct application of temperatures in the cooking processes and the maintenance of the cold chain are all safety measures that are used to prevent unsafe foods. Adherence to these safety practices should go a long way in mitigating any risk. It is important that manufacturers also make use of surface swabs to establish the efficacy of their cleaning programmes. Constant reinforcement of good hygiene and handling practices is also key. 


Q5: What about any concerns over the water quality as the dam levels continue to drop? Is the city water department doing to combat this?

The City of Cape Town has a water safety plan in place. There are a number of water treatment plants in place. The City is proud of it Blue Drop status and conforms with the potable water quality standards as stipulated in SANS: 241 -2015. This includes an extensive water sampling programme across the whole of the reticulation system, the analyses of which is done at a SANAS-accredited laboratory. These results are also monitored by City Health as part of its municipal health functions.


Q6: What happens, if or when, full water restrictions come into play or we reach D-Day?

Please see the disaster plan in the link here:  DISASTER PLAN


Q7:  Has monitoring of facilities and products been increased?

City Health has an extensive routine microbiological sampling programme in place and continues to monitor any trends. All food premises are inspected by the City’s environmental health practitioners  on a regular basis and health education is given where required.


Q8: Is there any communication to industry on risk management?

As indicated, each owner understands his/her business and the more formal businesses are likely to manage their risks accordingly. City Health is distributing health promotion material to the informal food traders and to communities. Here, the five keys to safer food forms the basis of the message together with the hand washing messages.


Q9: Any advice to consumers?

Be aware of your habits. Even at home, ensure that you cook food thoroughly and cool it down quickly. Ensure that your fridge is at a low temperature of at least 4°C. Ensure that you keep cooked products separate from raw products.


Q10: Do you have an audit questionnaire that users can do themselves to determine how they can safe water?

This can be as simple as observing how staff perform certain functions, understanding the processes and procedures and taking a fresh look at it. For example, are the sanitisers/disinfectants in use the correct ones for your requirements? The tips given to households can in some aspects also be used by the food industry. Please see a comprehensive list of tips in the link here: MAKE WATER SAVING A WAY OF LIFE


Q11: Who is our best contact at the media centre for water and sanitation to deal with?

Any water-related enquiries can be directed to



We would like to thank  Alderman JP Smith for taking time from a busy schedule to chat to us.


Our thanks also to Janine Willemans Senior Media Liaison Officer and Christa Hugo, Co-ordiantor: Health Programmes at City of Cape Town for their assistance in this regard.




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