Meat we eat in our wors may be worse

ONLY 15% of sausage or mince meat sold to consumers has been found to have been correctly labelled – which means in 85% of the cases, consumers are not sure what they are buying.

At the same time, scientists have found traces of human tissue in meat meant for public consumption – although this posed no threat to those buying and eating such meat.

These were some of the findings presented to Parliament yesterday (TUES) at a briefing on meat inspections.

University of Stellenbosch scientist Louw Hoffman said they had conducted a microbial food analysis, a “snapshot” which sometimes picked up hu man DNA on meat samples.

He said, however, this was not indicative of risk.

“If I walked into a factory, and the sample I randomly select to test was a meat sample that the person de-boning had just picked his nose, and touched the meat I would get a totally different microbial reading,” said Hoffman.

Hoffman said the products looked at by him were mostly sausages and mince, and that 95 of 139 products sampled were incorrectly labelled. He gave the example of a butchery in KwaZulu-Natal that was found to have been selling don key meat to the public.

“The donkey had a couple of red lights flashing because although there are abattoirs that are classified and allowed to slaughter horse, I don’t know of any that slaughter donkey.

“This was a small butchery in KwaZulu-Natal that looked very neat when you went inside.

“The question we raised is whether this donkey went through the formal meat system. I don’t think so,” said Hoffman.

But Hoffman said although the meat was incorrectly la belled there were no health risks to consumers.

In the briefing to Parliament’s Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries portfolio commit tee, University of Western Cape forensic scientist Dr Eugenia D’Amato said nearly 43% of samples she had tested and labelled as game, were in actual fact beef.

D’Amato said horse had also been used as a substitute for springbok in biltong and pork was found in ostrich sausage.

There was also a small kangaroo proportion of kangaroo in samples.

The health department’s Mandisa Hlela said while their own sampling had found only 15% of meat products had been correctly labelled, DNA testing was “quite expensive” and was mainly a municipal function.

The department of health had to pay around R30000 for 20 samples tested.

“However, we've gone through to the municipalities and the D-Day was the 24th (March) and we've not received responses from all of them,” said Hlela. She said, however, not all of the nine provinces had concluded the devolutions of health services, which included food inspection, to municipalities.

MPs have now called for in creased policing of local and imported meat products to prevent this sort of mislabeling.

The ANC’s Eugene Ngcobo said labeling had to be “fair and straight” to so consumers were informed as to the type of meat they bought.when they bought either horse or donkey meat.

“We should know, and have a choice,” said Ngcobo.

Hoffman said another worrying issue was allergens were not listed, and that up to 20% of consumers risked allergic re actions to plant allergens found in some meat products.

“In the labeling regulations it clearly states allergens have to be mentioned and noted,” said Louw.