Deadly noodles: Eastern Cape producer fingered

The National Consumer Commission has named Howe instant noodles as the brand linked to the suspicious deaths of at least three children.

The three, aged 11, 7, and six months, died on their way to a clinic in the Eastern Cape in early November after eating noodles and, not long after, complaining of nausea and stomach cramps.

Later in the month, siblings aged nine and 13 died in Mpumalanga within an hour of one another, and police said the only link they could find was the pack of noodles the pair had shared that morning.

The Consumer Commission said it had launched an investigation “into the conduct of Grandisync CC, the supplier of Howe Instant Noodles based in Uitenhage”, after the Eastern Cape deaths.

“Based on the information provided to the Commission by other regulators and the supplier, the NCC has reasonable suspicion to believe that Grandisync CC supplied unsafe goods or goods that posed a potential risk to the public”, said the watchdog in a statement.

The national department of health has been investigating several instances of suspected food poisoning since mid-November, but has not released the details of the products involved. 

Acting Consumer Commissioner Mabuza said that while the Commission is awaiting laboratory results, this investigation will help the Commission understand the nature, causes, extent and degree of the risk to the public.

“Consumer safety is at the heart of the Consumer Protection Act (CPA). Should our investigation reveal that indeed Grandisnyc CC contravened the provisions of the Act, we will refer the matter to the National Consumer Tribunal for the imposition of an administrative fine of 10% of their total annual turnover or R1-million; whichever is the greater” she added. 

Manufacturer responds

While the toxicology report is still outstanding, the manufacturer is of the opinion the symptoms experienced by the children were far too severe to be a normal type of food poisoning, sparking concerns that the noodles were contaminated in another way.

In an official statement released by its attorneys, the manufacturer said they immediately launched an internal investigation into the matter. 

The company said the safety of their consumers is their biggest concern and as manufacturers of a branded product they have the responsibility to ensure that it is safe for consumption. 

Here’s what is known about Howe Instant Noodles, and Grandisync, the company behind it, so far, according to BusinessInsider.

The Howe noodles are labelled as a “product of South Africa”, and punted as a quality product.

“An easy to prepare meal which is locally manufactured to the highest standards using only the best-sourced ingredients,” reads one of its previous marketing descriptions

The official ingredients listed on the instant noodles themselves is simple: wheat flour, palm oil, salt, tapioca starch, and water. A typical seasoning mix is not much more complex than salt, sucrose, maize flour, yeast extract, monosodium glutamate (E621), colourant (E635), flavouring (celery), anti caking agent (E551).

It is sold in a range of standard flavours, and some slightly more exotic ones

Wholesale catalogues suggest Howe’s two-minute noodles were most popular in the chicken and beef flavours often favoured in mainstream brands, but also sold in cheese and curry versions. Less common flavours seem to have included seafood, boerewors, and “steak&chop”.

A 75g of instant noodles wholesaled for under R3, which is fairly (but not ludicrously) cheap. Over the past year, various distributors sold packs as small as 50 units of Howe noodles (each pack at 75 grams) for an effective price of R2.90 or less, each.

That’s fairly, but not outrageously, cheap. You can expect to pay a little under R6 for a big-brand pack of two minute noodles at a major retailer in South Africa, but you can also find instant noodles for under R3.50 per pack if you buy five.

Grandisync, the company behind Howe, has a single businessman director, the 49-year-old Feng Chen. Feng did not immediately respond to attempts to contact him by BusinessInsider SA.

Feng is also the sole director of three other companies, which share their registered addresses with the Uitenhage address for Grandisync. Two of those companies, Netcoware and Oragraph, were registered in 2016. Little more is known about them.

Source: BusinessInsider SA,