- Woolworths, Shoprite and Checkers will stop selling pies, roasted chicken and bread baked in-store immediately.
- Government warned retailers that all hot food stations in their stores were supposed to be closed at the start of the national lockdown.
- The Companies and Intellectual Property Commission, which manages the permits for essential services companies, has warned that frozen prepared foods may also not be sold during lockdown.
- For more stories, go to Business Insider's home page.
Retailers, including Woolworths, Shoprite and Checkers, will immediately stop selling hot food, including rotisserie chickens, pies as well as bread baked in-store, after a warning from government.
While the state announced some easing in new lockdown regulations this week – hardware stores have been partially reopened for plumbers and electricians, for example – there has been no relaxation in food sales.
In fact, government took an even stricter line with food retailers during a media briefing on Thursday.
Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel told journalists that government’s position on selling hot prepared food was always “very clear”, and that retailers were not supposed to have hot food sections since the start of the national lockdown.
In a statement on Friday, Woolworths said that following Patel’s “communication” about the hot food counters on Thursday, it will immediately stop selling hot prepared food.
“While this has not yet been formally promulgated in the regulations and we are seeking clarity on the way forward, we have taken a decision to close all hot food counters with immediate effect to adhere to the communication by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition,” a spokesperson said.
A spokesperson of the Shoprite Group, which includes Checkers, said that it will “immediately correct” any "misinterpretation" of the regulations in its stores.
Frozen food dilemma
But Woolworths said it will continue to sell frozen prepared food (for example frozen lasagna and pizza) and refrigerated prepared foods – even after an indication from the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission that this is also not allowed.
The CIPC administers the Bizportal platform, which grants permits to essential services companies – including food retailers - during the national lockdown.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, the CIPC – via the Bizportal Twitter account – warned retailers that they are not allowed to sell any prepared food, including frozen meals.
Prepared food is not allowed to be sold during the lockdown period. Supermarkets are also not allowed to sell cooked food.— BizPortal (@BizPortalGovZa) April 16, 2020
If you know of one, please report them to the @SAPoliceService.
We are revoking fraudulent applications and referring them to @the_dti for legal action.
When it was pointed out that retailers like Checkers and Woolworths are selling frozen prepared foods, the CIPC warned:
They're not allowed to, if they are then they're breaking the law.— BizPortal (@BizPortalGovZa) April 16, 2020
However, some legal experts, including professor Pierre de Vos, constitutional law scholar at the University of Cape Town, questioned the CIPC's stance:
And later, the CPIC seemed to backtrack on its earlier comments:
CIPC (BizPortal) cannot provide advice on essential services. We administer the website for applications ONLY. A company needs to determine themselves based on the regulations if they are essential or not. We also don't make decisions about what products/services are essential.— BizPortal (@BizPortalGovZa) April 17, 2020
Compiled by Helena Wasserman
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