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Refrigerating food safely during load-shedding, recycling no-nos, scam advice

Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler's 'watch-outs of the week'

01 July 2022 - 15:08
Now that electricity outages of more than four hours are happening, we need to take extra measures to ensure food safety. Stock photo.
Now that electricity outages of more than four hours are happening, we need to take extra measures to ensure food safety. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Jackf

In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:

Don’t let load-shedding spoil your fridge contents

Now that regular stage 6 load-shedding — more than four hours of no power — appears to be our new reality, we need to up our game to protect our appliances and food in our fridges and freezers.

Consider having an electrician install a surge protector on your electric mains board and check whether your insurance policy includes surge damage and, if so, what they expect you to do for a claim to succeed.

Food safety experts have been telling us our refrigerated food should be safe as long as the power is out for no more than four hours and the fridge door is kept closed. 

Dr Lucia Anelich of Anelich Consulting adds a third proviso — your fridge must be running at no more than 4ºC. And the only way to know the temperature is to keep a thermometer in the fridge.

If you don’t want to risk spoilage of your fresh meat, milk, soft cheeses and leftovers — something you can’t tell by looking and smelling — put those into your freezer as load-shedding kicks in. Chest freezers are a real boon now.

Frozen ice packs can also be packed around perishable foods in the fridge to keep them cold for as long as possible during load-shedding. Or you can fill 2l cool drink or milk bottles with water and freeze them, then pop them in the fridge during load-shedding.

Food is safe in freezers for up to 48 hours, but here’s a top tip: fill a glass with water, freeze it, place a coin on top and leave it in the freezer. If you open the freezer and find the coin is where you left it, your food should be safe to eat. If you find the coin at the bottom of the glass, it’s a good indication that your food has defrosted. And if you find it somewhere in the middle you need to make a judgment call.

Only scammers ask loan applicants for upfront fees

With consumers being squeezed financially from all sides in a dramatic way, many people need to borrow money to keep food on the table.

Scammers posing as registered credit providers are capitalising on this large-scale desperation.

Skhumbuzo e-mailed me to say: “I contacted a company called First Capital Finance, having got their details from a close friend.

“I contacted the company on the cell number provided and a woman called Vicky forwarded me a loan application. I was asked to pay a ‘loan initiation fee’ of R1,900, which I paid on the promise of receiving the R10,000 loan within 45 minutes.”

He signed and sent the form with his proof of payment last Friday. But he didn’t get that R10,000. What he did get was a call from the “office manager”, asking for an immediate payment of R1,500 as a “bank to bank transfer”.

Sadly, Skhumbuzo obliged. Still no money, just a request for another payment — R1,400. He didn’t pay it, but he’s asked me to “intervene and please get my R3,400 back to me as I had to borrow it to get my loan”.

Unfortunately, scammers don’t respond to third parties wanting them to give up their ill-gotten gains.

Here’s what you need to know before you apply for a loan:

  • Legitimate loan companies do not ask for any upfront payments — this is forbidden by the National Credit Act.
  • Scammers often clone the names of legitimate companies.
  • A genuine credit provider won’t mind if you ask for a quote to get comparative quotes on interest rates. Only scammers demand immediate action.
  • Do not engage credit providers who do not conduct affordability assessments.
  • Never borrow from an unregistered credit provider.

If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a credit provider or agreement, contact the NCR on 011-554-2600/2700 or go to www.ncr.org.za.

Don’t be a wishcycler

This what the recycling companies call someone who throws something into the recycling hoping it can be recycled, but not knowing for sure.

“Often this can make every other item unusable and require the contents to be dumped in a landfill,” says Charlotte Metcalf, CEO of the SA National Bottled Water Association, in her latest newsletter.

“Contaminating the waste stream with material that is not actually recyclable makes the sorting process more costly because it requires extra labour,” she says.

“Wishcycling also damages sorting systems and equipment and depresses an already fragile trading market.”

Things that don’t belong in a recycling bin include soft plastics, moulded (theroform) plastic packaging — for example, fruit and veg packs — plastic wrap, aluminium foil, chip packets and hangers.

 GET IN TOUCH: You can contact Wendy Knowler for advice with your consumer issues via e-mail: consumer@knowler.co.za or on Twitter: @wendyknowler.

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