Call to stop ‘meat cowboys’

2013-03-26 16:26

If government does not stop “cowboys” in the meat industry, the mislabelling of products will continue to go unchecked, the Red Meat Industry Forum (RMIF) has told MPs.

Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committees on agriculture, health, and trade and industry, RMIF spokesperson Dave Ford said that while several meat safety and health laws were in place, enforcement was sorely lacking.

“We have cowboys in the industry, and if cowboys can see that somebody with the enormity of the transgressions that were made go unchecked, we are going to get more cowboys,” said Ford.

Recent studies by University of Stellenbosch and the University of the Western Cape (UWC) scientists showed the public was being misled by incorrect labelling of products like biltong, sausage, and mince.

Ingredients such as kangaroo, zebra and giraffe were found in certain products.

“My feeling is that what Prof Louw Hoffman and his colleagues from the UWC have come up with is only a second red light that’s flickering. We brought up this first red light with this thing about the Orion case,” Ford said.

In 2011, Orion were urgently interdicted from falsely labelling certain meat products, including kangaroo and pork, as Halaal.

“This was reported to the Hawks ... we had all the details, we had all the proof, and today nothing has happened. We’ve got this importer and he’s still carrying on with his trade.”

MPs heard Orion was still operating, as the department of agriculture could find no illegality.

“In terms of the registration of the facility, we didn’t find anything untowards,” deputy director-general Mike Modisane said.

Orion bosses had accused the RMIF of being biased against them, and trying to put them out of business.

“We could not say if he (Orion importer) was telling the truth or the industry was telling the truth. A final judgment was made, we had not recourse to go back and harass Orion,” Modisane explained to MPs.

Agriculture committee chairperson Lulu Johnson did not agree.

“In any law situation or court processes you are also able to appeal to any court decision. You still have room in that regard,” Johnson said.

MPs agreed with the meat industry that there was no need for Parliament to craft new laws, as food safety, health and consumer laws were sufficient.

However, the laws were not being implemented.

Johnson gave the departments three months to come up with a collaborative plan to ensure enforcement happened.

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