Horse, donkey meat scandal cause commotion

Prof Louw Hoffman study which suggests that South Africans have been feeding horse, donkey, water buffalo, soya and god knows what else in red meat products labeled otherwise has sent the cat amongst the pigeons with stakeholders scurrying for cover and playing a blame game.

Coming after such a scandal rocked Europe, the study by the Stellenbosch University expert, Hoffman, has caused widespread outrage in South Africa. It obviously points to a massive loop hole in the country’s quality control measures. The implications of the study findings are serious and include placing a significant number of people in health risk and tramples over cultural and religious values.

The study suggested that there is a fair share of fraudulent meat products on the South African market. “The study found that anything from soya, donkey, goat and water buffalo were to be found in up to 68% of the 139 minced meats, burger patties, deli meats, sausages and dried meats that were tested. In other cases, even undeclared plant matter was detected.”

The Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF), which represents the entire red meat industry chain, issued a curious statement yesterday.

RMIF said it has noted with extreme concern the condemning statements made on the research findings by Prof Louw Hoffman and his colleagues.

“The RMIF believes that it is incumbent on Prof Hoffman and his colleagues, if they possess incontrovertible factual evidence, to report the transgressors to the relevant authorities for investigation”.

“The RMIF previously brought certain fraudulent and unscrupulous importing and illegal labeling practice by a Cape Town importer to the attention of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the National Prosecuting Authority who took little or no steps with regards hereto. It was at this stage that the RMIF successfully took legal steps to interdict this importer”.

“Legislative measures are in place to enable the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Local Government Environmental Practitioners within the Department of Health, to test meat products in butcheries routinely for ingredients and species, verify correct labeling practices and to act against transgressors and bring them to book. The RMIF has previously brought these concerns before the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture on two occasions. The Department eventually undertook to establish an Inter-Ministerial Committee to investigate imported and domestically produced meat products”.

“The Red Meat industry uses an independent auditing company to do Meat Inspections nationally at red meat abattoirs to ensure that meat is safe for the consumer and her family. Once the meat products leave the abattoir they are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health who has sufficient legislation at their disposal to enforce compliance at point of sale”.

Another key stakeholder the Consumer Goods Council of South Africa (CGCSA), said it is confident that the major retail and quality independent suppliers in its member base are committed to ethical and legal meat practices.

“CGCSA has obtained and studied the report from Stellenbosch University .The results obtained from the analysis method used, which tests only for the presence or absence of a particular aspect is qualitative in its nature. This means that very little amounts of an aspect is required to be present in order to show a positive result”.

“The Stellenbosch University report is a timely wake-up call that we cannot afford to be complacent with when it comes to compliance with food labelling standards. We would caution against tarnishing the reputations of several thousand meat suppliers on the basis of the report, which from our understanding, was not the intention of the study or its findings”.

“The Consumer Goods Council of South Africa calls on the industry and members to work with regulators to ensure that the supply chain practices are safe and can be trusted by consumers for consumption,” said Ronel Burger, Head of the Food Safety Initiative at CGCSA”

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