Food safety and Consumer protection
The government is exerting great efforts to counter the phenomenon of commercial fraud in the markets of food during the past years, it is intending to issue a number of legislations that are related to consumer protection and food safety, in addition to spreading awareness of consumer rights and intensifying supervision of the markets, in order to find radical solutions to confront this phenomenon which harms consumers and the Egyptian industry. In this context Canada Egypt business council and the Egyptian council for sustainable development organized an event with General Atef Yacoub, Chairman of Consumer Protection Agency and Dr. Hussein Mansour Chairman of the Food Safety Authority to discuss consumer protection and food safety.
Safe food is fundamental to all consumers. Getting safe food is the right of every consumer as recognized by the food and agriculture organization (FAO) and the world health organization (WHO) in 1992. Although consumers must be responsible for what they eat, consumers alone are not able to ensure that what they eat is safe. Legislation is needed to ensure that food supplied to consumers meets safety standards. Comprehensive legal provisions are needed to protect consumers from risks associated with food due to the fact that there is a serious health risks relationship between food intake and illness. In consumer protection, the state involvement occur when market fail to protect consumers. Accordingly, the government will intervene by enacting relevant laws to balance the right of traders and the rights of the consumers.
The Chairman of the Consumer Protection Agency, General Atef Yacoub mentioned that the agency had set up a system to develop and enhance consumer protection, pointing out that the consumer protection agency is not against companies, but it aims to protect the honest competition among them, as well as protecting the good companies from the practices carried out by some random workshops. He further discussed that the government referred the new consumer protection law to the speaker of the House of Representatives Dr. Ali Abdel-Aal, who referred it to the Economic Affairs Committee, as an introduction to put it up in the public meetings during the third session.
General Yacoub explained that the most prominent features of the new law is that it obliges all traders to give an invoice receipt, which is a "safety instrument" for the consumers, and it includes the final price of the product after adding the sales tax and VAT, as well as extending the good replacement period to 30 days instead of 14 days. The new Consumer Protection Law also provides protection for e-shopping customers, extending the return period of the product even if it is free of defects to 14 days, as well as extending the period of return of defective products to one month.
He pointed out that the new law includes subjects that prohibit any misleading advertising and oblige traders to develop instructions showing consumer protection guidelines for citizens. He revealed the transfer of more than 20 car exhibitions to the prosecution because of tax evasion during the recent period. It is also noteworthy that the consumer protection system began its work for the first time in Egypt in 2006 according to a non-binding law in many of its articles, but the new law will be more effective and will organize the process of selling and buying and preserve the rights of consumers in the local market.
Tamer Muslim, Chairman of the Food and Beverage Committee of Canada Egypt Business Council, said that the Egyptian exports of food industries had witnessed a rise of 5% during the first nine months of this year to register about 1.9 billion dollars. The European countries hold 12.5% of these amounts, that is worth 235 million dollars, which is 21% higher than the same period of 2016. He pointed out that despite the fact that the inflation rate recorded 31.9% in September last year, inflation in food and beverages reached about 41.2%.
He added that the Egyptian market witnessed a change in the pattern of consumption during the current year following the liberalization of the exchange rate, as the Egyptian households tended to rationalize their consumption, according to statistics from the center of insight, 34% of Egyptians reduced their consumption of food in 2017.
Dr. Hussein Mansour, said that the Food Safety Law has unified food control authorities into one organization, including the consumer protection system, which will benefit the citizen. He added that the law specifies that the National Authority for Food Safety should assume the responsibilities of ministries, and local administration units for food control. He pointed out that the new law guaranteed the independence of the food control organization, and attributed its relegation to the Presidency of the Republic, with formation of a membership of 6 ministers.
Dr. Mansour pointed out that the definitions of different types of fraud are currently being prepared to determine the types of penalties. He thanked President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, President of the Republic, saying: "Without the president's intervention, the food safety authority would not have come to light."
The floor was then opened for questions and answers sessions where several ideas and suggestions discussed considering narrowing the consumption gap between the rich and the poor, environmental friendly policies, and the consensus Egypt need to follow to rise from poverty.